It’s the turn of a new year again and while many of us are making resolutions to eat healthier or work harder, WWE is planning what the next 365 days of their programming will look like. Ideas for WrestleMania 33 are in the process of being formulated and perhaps those in charge are even thinking actively about what that means for SummerSlam in August. It’s early, yes, but the general outline for the WWE in 2017 is no doubt in its developmental stages.
Many young, up and coming WWE Superstars will rise to glory in 2017, but, inevitably, many others will need to be left in the dust to make that happen. Not everyone can have their moment in the sun at the same time, which is a shame considering the copious amount of remarkable talent the company has on its hand at this stage in the game. After the brand extension was reestablished in 2016 the floodgates opened and now we’re looking at more amazing WWE Superstars than ever.
It is quite unfortunate that so many gifted and determined men and women will be forced to sit on the sidelines while others bask in the opportunities they’re given. Sometimes it’s obvious who these poor souls will be; people like Bo Dallas, Heath Slater, and Jack Swagger have a track record of being the token “jobber.” Other times it’s not so clear, but when one assesses the status quo in WWE it can be seen which otherwise well off Superstars don’t have success in their immediate future. Here are fifteen such cases.
The daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart is no stranger to this game of give and take. As the only female graduate of the infamous Hart Dungeon, Natalya is perhaps the most technically gifted female wrestler to ever sign a contract with WWE. For many years she singlehandedly held the credibility of the “Divas” division on her own shoulders when all of her female coworkers were models instead of professional athletes, and even now as a part of a revolutionized women’s division Nattie stands head and shoulders above most in pure talent.
It’s actually just poor timing that Nattie came around as early as she did. Fans have only recently gotten to truly appreciate what she can bring to a match, but she’s been a familiar face in WWE for so long that she’s no longer exciting to push as championship material. Therefore, she’s seen frequent losses in order to put other women over, and although she has seen more meaningful screen time on SmackDown Live since the brand split, Natalya will no doubt once again fall victim to total career burial in 2017.
There’s no denying that Glenn “Kane” Jacobs is headed straight for the WWE Hall of Fame upon his retirement from professional wrestling. The man has been an icon in the business for twenty years and is one of the most instantly recognizable WWE Superstars of all time. However, as much as the company likes to harp on him for being such a dominant force in the ring, Kane has rarely actually been dominant. Aside from a few major runs in the main event scene, once his initial appeal died out during the Attitude era Kane has mostly been used as a glorified enhancement talent.
One would think he might have one last good run in him, especially with the brand extension offering up more opportunities to WWE’s wrestlers, but it’s more likely that 2017 will be the year that Kane heads into retirement and WWE starts to accept that. Expect to see Kane losing a lot of matches this year and putting over a lot of younger talent.
13 Big Show
The case of Paul Wight is a similar one to that of Kane. As The Giant, Wight became a force to be reckoned with in World Championship wrestling, winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. He later moved to the World Wrestling Federation and became known as the Big Show, and the rest is history. The Big Show has won so many championships in WWE that it’s difficult to count them all, and several of those have been World Championships.
Despite his frequent dominance in the ring, however, the Big Show has been used in less impressive fashion in recent years. Having been on the losing end of just about every encounter he’s had has placed him in the position of the veteran who is obviously doing favors on his way out. He has announced his desire to retire from the ring in 2017, so expect a lot more losses in the Big Show’s future.
12 Xavier Woods
When Xavier Woods first joined WWE after a stint in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling few believed he would go on to become one of the company’s most valuable talents. That is certainly not because fans didn’t see value in his work; Woods could obviously carry his own weight in the ring and wasn’t too shabby on the microphone. It was more about the fact that WWE stuck him with a bland gimmick early on and didn’t seem to care whether he saw any success at all.
That all changed with The New Day. Xavier Woods has been the token mouthpiece of that trio, far outshining Big E and Kofi Kingston in that arena. However, with his counterparts frequently getting much more ring time it seems clear that WWE still doesn’t see Xavier Woods as a big solo star and that’s why he’ll be buried in 2017, with or without The New Day.
11 Dana Brooke
Many wrestlers find success in NXT only to be left out in the cold when they are called up to the main roster. That actually hasn’t been the case for Dana Brooke because she never really went anywhere when she was in NXT, either. It seems odd that she would be called up to Raw and SmackDown without ever getting much of a chance to shine in developmental, but following a lot of down time due to injury that’s exactly what happened.
She hasn’t done much better on the main roster. Though Dana has been more frequently utilized, especially following the brand extension, her role has largely been to lose matches in the place of her close pal Charlotte Flair. Not even a year into her run on Monday Night Raw and Dana Brooke is already not being bought as a legitimate threat to anyone, so we can expect to see her ran into the ground in 2017.
10 Enzo Amore
The tandem of Enzo Amore and Big Cass, who was formerly known as Colin Cassady, has been incredibly popular ever since their early days teaming together in NXT. There is no better trash talker in the entire industry right now than Enzo, and Big Cass is superb in the role of backing up his partner’s words. Between NXT and their time on the main roster, Enzo and Cass have been teaming together for several years now and getting huge reactions from the crowd. Unfortunately, that hasn’t done much for their win record.
It would seem that WWE sees this team strictly as a sideshow to get the crowd all fired up, because while few can outwit them verbally they can’t seem to stay on a steady winning streak. Rumors have swirled for a while that the company has considered breaking them up, and if that ever happens you can bet Enzo Amore, who rarely seems to get a win, will be the one left in the dust.
9 Dolph Ziggler
For more than a decade it has been an uphill battle for Dolph Ziggler to achieve even close to the amount of recognition he deserves in WWE. His technical skills are insane and the crowd has always been into him whether he was playing a heel or a babyface, but Vince McMahon was never sold on him as a huge star. The one time it looked as if Ziggler might finally get an opportunity at the World Heavyweight Championship an injury put a stop to all of his momentum, and despite a few runs with the Intercontinental Championship that was the closest he will likely ever get to glory.
Dolph Ziggler is destined to always be the ultimate underdog in WWE. He has received quite a bit more screen time as of late on SmackDown Live since the new brand extension went into effect, but it seems like it’s one step forward and two steps back, as usual. No WWE fan ever doubted that Dolph Ziggler is one of the company’s greatest assets in years, but Vince McMahon has never taken a liking to him and we shouldn’t expect that to change in 2017.
8 Apollo Crews
When Apollo Crews was making his debut in NXT it was made into a very big deal. To believe the hype, it seemed as if Crews was going to be the man to launch NXT to the next level. However, after only a brief time in development, it was clear he wasn’t clicking too well with the audience and he was brought up to Raw and SmackDown in 2016. Since then, it seems as though it’s been a struggle for Crews just to get time on television.
Even following the brand extension with so many WWE Superstars getting opportunities to shine who didn’t have that chance before, Apollo Crews is still floating around with not very much to do. The man is incredibly agile and he’s big enough to have an impressive power game, but that bland smile and lack of an edge will see to it that, unless something is drastically changed about his character, Apollo Crews will be buried in the coming year.
7 TJ Perkins
In 2016 the WWE Network was receiving a huge pat on the back due to the popularity of the first ever Cruiserweight Classic tournament. Wrestlers from all over the world who were under two hundred and five pounds were invited to partake in the competition and some of WWE’s greatest matches of the year took place on the weekly show. The action in the tournament was absolutely breathtaking and WWE got plenty of new talent to sign to contracts, including the man who won it all and became the first Cruiserweight Champion of the new era, TJ Perkins.
It seemed as if WWE was incredibly high on TJ Perkins, as following his title win he was featured weekly on Monday Night Raw, which is where the Cruiserweight division as a whole was drafted. But Perkins seemingly fell out of favor when only a brief time later he lost the title and was used much more sparingly. If WWE is sincerely not on his side, somebody better get the shovel ready for TJP.
Ever since debuting for the company years ago it has seemed as if WWE has had it out for Cesaro. Known by his real name, Claudio Castagnoli, on the independent circuit, he built a massive following and brought those fans with him into WWE. With his size and athleticism Cesaro seemed a perfect fit for Vince McMahon’s mainstream wrestling product, but apparently, he lacked charisma and marketability and this has seen WWE cutting him off at the pass every time he’s been on the verge of something special.
Cesaro has been involved more recently in a rivalry, then a Tag Team, with Sheamus. While that program has been a bit of a hit for Monday Night Raw and the pair have managed to become the Raw Tag Team Champions, Cesaro and his fans are no doubt growing tired of his constantly being held back from the main event scene. WWE isn’t likely to change its stance on him anytime soon, so it may not be a very bright year for the “Swiss Superman.”
5 Braun Strowman
The members of the Wyatt Family have been frequent victims of the machine. Fans were utterly captivated by Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan from the onset of their time on the main roster in WWE, but loss after loss has rendered the entire unit as essentially laughable. So when the massive Braun Strowman was added to the mix it wasn’t as if he had received a rub of some kind; in fact, he was stepping onto something of a sinking ship.
Evidence of this was seen when the brands were split again and Strowman was drafted to Monday Night Raw all on his own. His star really started to shine brightly with a string of dominance that continues to this day, but if history tells us anything it’s likely that this is merely Strowman’s moment in the sun. Strowman may be working the World Championship picture soon, but don’t expect him to stay there.
4 Nia Jax
The emergence of Nia Jax in NXT was something incredibly special for what was then still referred to as the “Divas” division. Aside from the brief time Awesome Kong, or Kharma, was under contract with the company years back, Jax was the first plus-sized woman to compete for WWE in recent memory. She broke the mold of what it meant to have the trademark WWE “beauty,” and it was exactly what an evolving women’s division needed.
Nia Jax has not been pushed as a stereotypical monster devoid of any human qualities, but she is indeed seen as a powerhouse. Nia will no doubt tear a path through the main roster women’s division on her journey to capture the Women’s Championship, but it’s highly unlikely WWE will make much meaningful use out of her once she’s finally been cut down by a top babyface, making her situation quite similar to that of Braun Strowman’s.
3 Sami Zayn
So often we’re presented with a WWE Superstar who is so incredible in every possible way that there is no clear explanation as to why he or she isn’t the face of the company. Sami Zayn is the most recent example of this. He consistently wrestles some of WWE’s most amazing and exciting matches, he’s got a unique look about him, and he’s talented on the microphone to boot. What’s for the company not to like?
It’s not as if Sami Zayn has seen no success since coming to the company. The former independent wrestling star had a memorable journey to the NXT Championship before an injury sidelined him for quite a time. Once coming to the main roster, he’s seen plenty of screen time, although he’s been used inconsistently as it relates to the importance of his storylines. Sami just seems like another classic example of what WWE sees as an underdog and it will probably always be that way.
2 Bray Wyatt
As we’ve already discussed, the Wyatt Family has not seen the best of times. WWE’s resident horror film stable has captivated the audience over the years but never been able to break through the barrier that keeps them from true main event status. If there’s one person whose shoulders this lies on more heavily it is obviously their leader, Bray Wyatt. Bray has been seen as having the potential to be a modern day version of the Undertaker, but his frequent losses have severely crippled his mystique.
The 2016 draft saw Bray Wyatt and his family wind up on SmackDown Live in the brand extension and they have, as a result, seen a much more nuanced and better-paced presentation to their story. It is hoped by many that this will finally allow Bray to eventually bust the WWE Championship picture wide open, but only time will tell and if history gives us any clue as to how it’s all going to go down, things don’t look good for the “Eater of Worlds.”
1 Sasha Banks
2016 was a landmark year for women’s wrestling. The sexist “Diva” term was retired and WWE finally began to recognize its female athletes as a valuable part of its wrestling show. At the forefront of this movement has been the group of women known affectionately as the “Four Horsewomen,” and perhaps the most popular of the four has been Sasha Banks. Sasha has become the darling of women’s wrestling fans, a true megastar in every way from her in-ring ability to her fun character.
Sasha and Charlotte Flair broke nearly every glass ceiling there was left to be broken in WWE throughout the year, but something that became increasingly evident was that Vince McMahon does not see Sasha Banks as the dominant star the crowd sees her as. She did rack up a few brief runs with the Raw Women’s Championship during her rivalry with Charlotte, but Charlotte is the company girl now and it’s unclear if Sasha will be put on the back burner going into 2017.