2016 is almost at an end. So as one amazing year of wrestling comes to a close, it’s time to look at what the future has in store for us. 2017 has a lot to live up to if it wants to surpass the last twelve months of fantastic grappling action, but with all of these exciting events to look forward to, it may just achieve that. So here they are: my Top 10 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2017.
For this list, I’ve tried to avoid things that aren’t guaranteed to happen, or have only had very mild speculation surrounding them, yet if a rumoured event looks likely and it excites me, it will place on the list, just not as high as things that are certain to happen. With that being said, let’s get on with the list.
10. The Further Growth of Braun Strowman
Braun is pretty much Vince McMahon’s wet dream come to life. At the start of 2016, I never looked forward to see Braun Strowman wrestle, but by the end of the year, the former Wyatt Family member has grown to become one of the most promising developing wrestlers in the company. Sure, it’ll take a while before Strowman evolves to have good ring psychology and is skilled enough for a main event push, but since the brand split, Strowman has done nothing but impress me to my surprise. With his size, strength, and unbelievable speed, Strowman is a unique member of the Raw roster, and I’m excited to see how much further he can develop, and what WWE has in-store for him in 2017.
- Bray Wyatt Finally Getting a Push
Considering the fact he’s actually managed to rack-up a couple of PPV wins a row, won a traditional Survivor Series match for Team Smackdown Live, and he’s just won his first ever title in WWE (something that was extremely long overdue), it looks like WWE are FINALLY giving The Eater of Worlds the push he deserves. There’s a reason why he ranked so highly in my lists of the Most Underutilised Talents in WWE and WWE Wrestlers Who Deserve a World Title Match; the man is one of the most charismatic talents in the world right now, and the fact he has never had a one-on-one singles title match is a crime. Hopefully though, that will change in 2016.
With Luke Harper and Randy Orton under his wing, Wyatt could easily take over the entire Smackdown brand, and perhaps even claim the WWE Championship as his own. Alternatively, Bray could eventually feud with Randy – a win over a former world champion would be the perfect platform to finally propel Bray into the main event.
Although not definite by any means, a Bray Wyatt main event push is very likely to happen in 2017 judging by the way things are going for the cult leader. Then again, WWE could also return to old habits and have The New Face of Fear job to every Tom, Dick, and Baron Corbin. Either way, Wyatt is finally getting some long overdue success, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
- Marty Scurll in ROH
Marty Scurll is one of the best British talents in wrestling right now, and the fact it’s taken a major company this long to snap up The Villain is a crying shame (and no, I’m not counting his time in TNA).
The fact he won the ROH World Television Title on his third night in the company, and successfully defended it in an awesome triple threat match at Final Battle, are clear signs that ROH have big plans for the chickenwing connoisseur. It’s always exciting to see somebody you’re a fan of doing well in the business, especially if they’re one of your own countrymen, and with the amount of talent Scurll has, as well as the faith ROH seem to have in him, witnessing what Marty will achieve in his new company in the new year is a very exciting prospect.
- New Talent Being Signed to WWE
We all love seeing our favourite indie darlings reaching the WWE. Not only is it good for their careers and bank balances, it’s almost always good for us fans too as we usually get to see them more often, in bigger matches and on an easier-to-access platform. Sure, there are some talents that are better off not signing on that dotted line (you can check out my list on that subject by clicking here), but most talents benefit from being under Vince McMahon’s umbrella, whether that’s by achieving success in the company, having a bit of guaranteed money for a little while, or more high profile independent bookings after they leave the company.
With big names such as Ricochet rumoured to be signing for the company in 2017, it looks like NXT will continue being an exciting product in the following year.
- Ember Moon Reaching the top of NXT’s Women’s Division
It’s been a long time since I was this excited for a new talent in WWE.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t really familiar with Moon’s work prior to her NXT debut at Takeover Brooklyn, yet as soon as I saw her do her thing between those yellow ropes, I instantly knew she’d be a star. With her incredible athleticism, and one of the best finishing moves in the world right now (which ranked highly in my list of the best finishing moves in WWE), it’s a seemingly universal opinion that Ember is set to be the next huge female star in WWE, and will be the one to finally topple the unstoppable Asuka from her NXT thrown.
In 2017, we will hopefully see Ember Moon develop into an even better performer, and it’s almost guaranteed she will have the NXT Women’s Championship around her waist. With all the talent and potential this woman has, Ember Moon deserves to be pushed to the thing she’s named after.
- WWE Women’s Tournament
Okay, so I’m breaking my own rules a little by placing something that hasn’t yet been confirmed so high up in the list, but considering how exciting the prospect of this happening is, how could I not?
If the CWC is anything to go by, a knockout women’s tournament featuring unsigned talents from around the world would make for amazing television, and would be the perfect way to inject new life in the currently lacking NXT women’s division. With a wealth of female talent pools to dip into from Japan, America, Britain, and elsewhere, WWE would have no problem scouting some fantastic competitors for this event.
The possibilities for this tournament are thrilling, and WWE would be crazy not to pull the trigger on this one.
- British Wrestling Expanding
In 2016, we saw some of the biggest independent shows in British wrestling history, the birth of a new promotion with a worldwide fanbase on YouTube, and the exciting news of the British institution, World of Sport, finally returning to our screens. It really is an exciting time to be a fan in the UK right now, and let’s hope this progress carries on into 2017 with bigger and better shows, and possibly more World of Sport specials on ITV, or perhaps even a weekly show similar to Lucha Underground (read about the history and potential of World of Sport by clicking here). With WCPW set to jet off to Orlando on Wrestlemania weekend, and ICW already booked in for another show at the huge SSE Hydro, it looks like the growth of British wrestling isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
- NXT Callups
NXT can no longer be described as a developmental brand; its popularity and ability to fill large arenas means it is simply now the third brand. So given how much of a hit it is with the majority of wrestling fans, a lengthy stay on the yellow brand really isn’t a bad thing these days. In fact, staying put down in Full Sail can be a lot more beneficial than a run on the main roster for some (*cough* *cough* Apollo Crews *cough* *cough*), but when a talent callup goes well, it can result in amazing things.
As we’ve seen this year with Finn Balor and Enzo and Cass, a move to the main roster can result in some major achievements, and an increased growth in popularity, merchandise, and opportunities. So with it looking likely that we will see Asuka dominating between blue or red ropes, Samoa Joe destroying everything in his path, and Shinsuke Nakamura reaching true mainstream global superstar status in 2017, it’s an exciting time to be a WWE fan. Personally, given how popular he has become judging by the deafening 10 chants heard in promotions around the world, I cannot wait to see Tye Dillinger cartwheeling his way around a main roster ring in 2017 (read about what I think WWE should do when they call the perfect 10 up to the main roster by clicking here).
No matter who gets called up from NXT year, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be excited about it. Let’s just hope they all go the way of a Kevin Owens callup, rather than an Ascension callup.
- Finn Balor Returns
Seeing Finn Balor being called up to Raw and skyrocketed to the main event was one of my personal highlights of 2016; it’s just a monumental shame that it was cut so short by an unfortunate shoulder injury. But considering how quickly WWE were willing to crown him their first ever Universal Champion, it’s clear that once The Demon returns from injury, he’ll be thrown back straight into big things.
If Finn manages to recover by the end of January, there’s a very high chance he will go on to win the Royal Rumble match (please let this happen, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN!), and then head to Wrestlemania with a shot at the belt that he never lost. But even if the former Prince Devitt isn’t in the main event of Mania, his attire is bound to steal the show anyway. As it will be his first ever Wrestlemania appearance, there’s a good chance we will witness the most incredible incarnation of Balor’s demonic side yet, with an epic, cinematic entrance to boot.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we will witness Balor wearing gold around his waist once more in 2017, and hopefully it will be for more than a day.
Kris Travis Hopefully Getting the Warrior Award – As much as I would love to place this on the list, it is not guaranteed to happen whatsoever, but in my opinion, Kris Travis is the most deserving person for WWE’s Warrior Award this year. As both recipients of the award so far have been victims of cancer, it makes sense for WWE to honour a fallen, beloved member of the wrestling world with this honour at the Hall of Fame ceremony, and with their increasing ties with indie promotions around the world, the amount of people currently in WWE who wrestled Travis (Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, etc), and the fact Noam Dar paid tribute to him on Raw, the prospect of this happening is certainly likely.
What Heath Slater Will do Next – We all know that Beauty and the Man Beast can’t last forever, especially now they’ve lost the tag titles, so I’m excited to see what WWE will do with Heath Slater next. Taking into account how entertaining he’s been since the brand split, WWE would be foolish to waste his momentum and talent by sending him back to the bottom of the card. Personally, I’d love to see Slater have a brief programme with the WWE title. By no means do I expect him to win it, but his entertaining ways would certainly make for some great television.
John Cena Putting Over More Talent – Over the last couple of years, John Cena’s position in the company seems to have changed. As we’ve seen with Kevin Owens and AJ Styles, Cena is now there to help put over other talents, as a clean victory against him is guaranteed to make anybody a believable main eventer. Although there’s no certainty this will happen, or who Cena will help put over, I am definitely excited of the possibility of Big Match John losing clean to a few more younger wrestlers.
More Goldberg – Seeing Big Billy Goldberg on Raw and at Survivor Series certainly brought back a lot of memories and filled my heart with nostalgia, and although I’m not expecting a five star classic from the former WCW Champion, a little bit more Goldberg will definitely put a smile on my face.
Undertaker’s Retirement – So since he’s my favourite wrestler of all time, it might seem strange that I would look forward to his retirement, but simply put, the time is right. We’ve all seen the photos of Taker using a cane to walk, so perhaps it would be best for The Deadman to have one or two more matches in 2017, and call it a day in the most epic fashion.
Someone New Challenging for the Raw Women’s Title – As much as I’ve loved Sasha and Charlotte’s rivalry, it’s about time they gave someone else a chance.
- Omega vs Okada
Here it is, the most exciting event of 2017, and we only have to wait four days to witness it.
On January 4th 2017, we will all be subjected to one of the most anticipated matches in years, Kenny Omega’s long-overdue world title match against Kazuchika Okada.
2016 was the year of Kenny Omega (hence why he ranked so highly on my list of wrestlers who owned 2016) – we watched The Cleaner emerge as the new leader of The Bullet Club, and his stock continued to rise from there. In the summer, Omega became the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the historic G1 Climax tournament, and with it, a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Seeing as both Omega and Okada were involved in five star rated matches by Dave Meltzer in 2016, and they’re two of the most popular wrestlers in the entire world right now, the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 11 is expected to be incredible. Even though it will happen in just the first four days of the year, I can’t see any other match topping this one in 2017 – I doubt there will be one match that comes anywhere close to this guaranteed epic even 361 days later.
Wrestle Kingdom is always one of the best shows on the wrestling calendar, and with a rising world champion in the making challenging (and hopefully defeating) an established global superstar in the final match of the evening, we are all in for the most stunning way to start 2017.
What are you excited for in 2017? Let me know by tweeting me @HairyWrestling or by leaving a comment below.