The main subject of my wrestling thoughts these last few weeks has been Bray Wyatt. I essentially turned the Payback Spotlight into one long extended rant about how little his move to Raw was going to do for him. But it feels like years that there has been a feeling that WWE are holding Bray back – he has been in championship pictures for a miniscule part of his run, and he always seems to lose the big feuds.
It looked like WWE might have changed their ways with Bray earlier this year, as he put away SmackDown’s top two stars in AJ Styles and John Cena with one Sister Abigail each inside the Elimination Chamber to become the WWE Champion for the first time. He then defended the title two days later against the same two men in a triple threat match. But WWE’s Eater of Worlds, and their current darkest, creepiest superstar, quickly and too easily succumbed to Randy Orton at Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania – and the weeks since – have not gone particularly well for Bray
And here we are at the end of Wrestlemania season! We’ve had six straight nights of content from WWE alone with the Hall of Fame, TakeOver: Orlando, Wrestlemania 33, Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It almost feels strange not having more wrestling to look forward to tonight. BUT, we can look back at all the awesome stuff that’s happened in the last week, and look ahead by asking the question “where do we go from here?”
We saw Kurt Angle return to the company, first as a Hall of Famer then as the Raw General Manager. We saw what looks like a full on heel turn from Asuka. We saw Matt and Jeff Hardy return to the WWE and become the Raw Tag Team Champions. We saw the career of The Undertaker likely come to a close. We saw The Revival debut on the main roster on Monday night, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Tye Dillinger get the call up on Tuesday night. And crucially, we also saw Vince McMahon announce that next week we would shake up the rosters.
And that’s what I want to focus on here. Who is most likely to switch brands, or maybe rather who needs to switch brands the most? Here I lay out six picks, three from each show, who could really benefit from a shake up of their surroundings.
It’s finally here! It’s the day of Wrestlemania 33. It’s been a long build up, in more ways than one. We’ve been on the road to Wrestlemania for all intents and purposed for the last three months. We’ve been hearing constant plugs for Mania several times a week on each Raw and SmackDown. But it’s been a long build up for some matches too, as I’ve already written about some matches that’s roots can be traced back to SummerSlam, a whole seven months ago.
But there’s one match where the history, across several tracks, goes back years. And that’s the match I’m rounding off this preview series on. It may be unsanctioned, but that just means there are boundless opportunities here. It is, of course, Seth Rollins vs Triple H.
Serious Trips. Mean Trips. Grrrrrrrrr. #HeelBeard
As we head into Wrestlemania, all eyes are on the ultimate thrill ride, and rightfully so. It’s not WWE’s pinnacle for no reason. But, as ever with WWE storylines, a big part of the excitement around Mania is the possibility for what will come next. So I’ve put my fantasy booking hat on (I mean come on, I don’t really ever take it off) and come up with eight rivalries I want to see on SmackDown coming out of Wrestlemania season. In case you’re wondering, I’m only doing SmackDown because I’m too uncertain about who will be in what spots and roles on Raw, and I’m doing eight feuds because there are eight segments in a typical SmackDown broadcast. And the roster isn’t really big enough for more. Got that? Let’s go!
WWE Championship – Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt ©
As the premier prize in the industry, the WWE Championship match at Wrestlemania should always be the most highly anticipated spectacle at the showcase of the immortals. But we’ve seen during the brand extension that that’s not always the case. When there are two world titles, one has to take priority over the other at the biggest show of the year, and just as it did in the early stages of the original dual world title era, this year it’s the WWE Title match that’s taking the back seat.
Part of that is because the build up to Randy Orton vs Bray Wyatt this year has been… weird. In theory, this is a seven months storyline that has had its twists and turns, elevated both men with some character development and is peaking at the right time for maximum impact. Practically though, the last month or so especially has been confusing and very hit or miss.
We’ve had to surrender to the supernatural in the last couple of weeks
Day five. Wrestlemania is just two nights away, and the excitement is definitely building. We have the Hall of Fame ceremony tonight, NXT TakeOver tomorrow night, and then the big one. This time of the year, and this show in particular, has almost become synonymous with one man over the decades. That man’s match on Sunday night is today’s spotlight match: Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker.
The Undertaker will be competing in his 25th, and possibly final, Wrestlemania match, with a win-loss record of 23-1. Roman Reigns will be competing in his 5th, and definitely not final, Wrestlemania match, with a record of 3-1. There are twenty years worth of difference between their Wrestlemania appearances, twenty years worth of wins between their records, and twenty years difference between their ages. Passing of the torch anyone? Continue reading
Hear us previewing Wrestlemania weekend here!
Six months ago, I wrote a column on the aftermath of the draft. I wrote about how the gauntlet was being laid down to SmackDown’s women’s division – and we have seen a star rise in Alexa Bliss. I wrote about how Dolph Ziggler wasn’t even on a list of names I’d noted weren’t on last year’s Battleground. And he was one of the stand outs in WWE for the latter part of 2016 alongside The Miz. Who would’ve seen that coming? I wrote about how the draft was all about the same thing that Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan had been pushing the blue brand to be all about – opportunity.
Now I want to talk about another superstar who has an opportunity. Now I want to talk about a wrestler who could have a career defining couple of months ahead of him. Now I want to talk about a superstar who six months ago was on the shelf through injury, and wasn’t even mentioned at any point in my previous article. Now I want to talk about Luke Harper.
Making predictions is something all wrestling fans love to do. Whether it’s predicting something as immediate as PPV results, predicting what the next Wrestlemania card will look like or who the next Royal Rumble winner will be, or as cataclysmic as who the next face of the industry will be. So when I start this column by making a prediction with an incredible number of variables, and that I wouldn’t have dreamed of making this time last year, it may surprise you to find it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Road to Wrestlemania. Instead I’m saying The Miz will win a Money In The Bank Ladder match in 2017.
When I say there are variables, we know there’s going to be a Money In The Bank PPV next year. We don’t know if it’s going to be dual branded, and if it’s not we don’t know whether Raw superstars will compete or SmackDown. On top of that, we don’t know which show Miz will be on because there could very well be a draft before then, and even if there isn’t Miz’s ongoing storyline with Daniel Bryan could see him traded to Raw at some point. We don’t know where on the card he will be, if he will still be Intercontinental or any other champion, and – crucially – we don’t know if he will be in the Money In The Bank Ladder match itself. Continue reading
The path from NXT to the WWE main roster is littered with success stories. In the last two Wrestlemanias, including the preshows, 16 out of 21 matches have featured NXT graduates. The obvious highlights are of course the men who have been able to call themselves world – or universal – champion: Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens. But, it is not always an easy road to the top of the WWE, and some have fallen by the wayside along the way. Sometimes they just weren’t ready to get the call up, sometimes the fans didn’t take to them, sometimes creative didn’t have the right plans in place for them. Some superstars thrive on the slow burn that NXT allows them to have, improving and connecting with the crowd slowly but surely, to the point someone can be on fire at the right time, with the right opponent – but they don’t get that chance on Raw or Smackdown. It’s a different set of rules, more demanding than ever before, more challenging, and of course they have to win over Vince McMahon working from the very bottom again. Here I take a look at ten NXT graduates who haven’t quite hit it off on the main roster. Continue reading