Wrestling fans absolutely love tournaments. Well, I know I do anyway. All across the world, tournaments are the highlights of every promotion’s annual calendar, such as NJPW’s Best of the Super Juniors, PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles, Lucha Underground’s Cueto Cup, WCPW’s Pro Wrestling World Cup, and Progress’ Super Strong Style. From the King of the Ring to the Cruiserweight Classic, tournaments have always been a part of WWE programming, yet in the last few years, they really have seemed to have made a comeback, with the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, and the upcoming Mae Young Classic. These tournaments always prove to be successful, pulling in a lot of praise and attention for their great in-ring action, surprising and memorable moments, and ability to create stars. With that in mind, perhaps it’s time for WWE to draw up a few more brackets and order a few more trophies. But what tournaments could WWE potentially do in the near future? Well, I have a few suggestions. Here are Five Potential WWE Tournaments.
Before we get started, a simple suggestion to improve WWE programming would be to introduce more mid-card title tournaments. On multiple occasions throughout the years, tournaments have been held on WWE’s weekly television shows in order to crown mid-card champions, or number-one contenders for those belts, and they always make for interesting viewing. Watching a multi-stage tournament will always be more entertaining than a single number-one contenders match as it builds weeks of suspense leading up to the eventual pay-off. Now obviously this is not a concept that should be overdone as it will take away from the spectacle of the tournament, but if they limited it to one mid-card tournament per brand every year, it could certainly spice things up.
Road to Royal Rumble Round Robin
For those that don’t know, the G1 Climax is a tournament held annually by New Japan Pro Wrestling that involves two blocks of competitors facing each other under round robin rules in order to earn a prestigious trophy, and a shot at the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship taking place at the company’s biggest show of the year (for more information on NJPW, click here for my beginner’s guide to New Japan). It’s the highlight of every New Japan fan’s summer as it always delivers incredible in-ring action, surprises and memorable moments. WWE have hours of television to fill every single week, and if they want to keep fans interested, perhaps it’s about time they borrowed a thing or two from their Eastern competition.
Starting just after Summerslam, the Road to Royal Rumble tournament would feature competitors across Raw and Smackdown that are split into two blocks, just like in the G1. Rather than a traditional single elimination style tournament we’re used to seeing in WWE, it would be contested under round robin rules, meaning participants would compete for points rather than survival. Wrestlers would face-off against every other member of their respective block, and once all of the tournament matches have taken place, the winners from each block (the person that has racked up the most points) face each other in the finals, which would take place at Survivor Series, to be crowned the overall tournament winner, and earn a shot at their brand’s world championship at Royal Rumble. Three whole months of weekly tournament action, culminating in a major, headlining match to bulk-up the card of WWE’s weakest of its big four pay-per-views.
The easiest option would be to have one block on each brand, but the most interesting option would be to through brand-exclusivity straight out of the window. By having members from both brands mixing it up in each block, it would create a series of matches and opponents that we wouldn’t normally get to see, keeping things fresh and interesting on a weekly basis. Block A would compete in tournament matches on Raw and Smackdown on one week, while the B block wrestlers are involved in tag matches, then the next week Block B take part in tournament matches while block A compete in tag matches, and it continues to alternate until the finals.
The beauty of this tournament is that it wouldn’t need feuds or promos to build it up, the tournament itself creates all of the excitement. You’re tuning in every week to see who’s going to climb their way up the table, or fall tragically to the bottom. The prospect of seeing dream matches, tag team partners being forced to compete against each other, and old rivals renewing their wars on a weekly basis is bound to get those ratings up. What’s more, a lower dependence on microphone performance would give the wrestlers involved more time to show off how good they are in the ring, and could be an excellent opportunity to make a few breakout stars.
WWE is always looking to create more new main event-level superstars, and this would be the perfect vehicle to do so. By selecting a mix of already-established main-eventers and veterans, such as Cena, Rollins and Orton, as well as an assortment of lower-card talents that are gifted in the ring, like Neville and Tye Dillinger. Imagine how much a great wrestler like Chad Gable could benefit from an opportunity like this – after three months of showing how fantastic he is between the ropes, he’s almost guaranteed to convincingly be involved in the main event scene.
So not only does this tournament create new stars, keep fans guessing, produce multiple surprising and memorable moments, help to improve three months of television, and add major matches to two of WWE’s big four annual pay-per-views, it’s also something that can be replicated year after year after year. Out of all the tournaments on this list, this has the most benefits, the most major impact on the WWE product, and the one that doesn’t need a reason to happen other than what time of year it is. WWE has the opportunity to spice up their programming every autumn, and they have every reason to use the Road to Royal Rumble round robin tournament to do that.
Luck of the Draw/Joker’s Wild
As wrestling fans, we crave unpredictability and surprises. Take this year’s Wrestlemania as an example – when The Hardys made their unexpected return, WWE fans around the world exploded with excitement (I was in a pub full of grown adults, and we all screamed, even plates were smashed). So, to inject a bit more spice and uncertainty to WWE’s weekly programming, why not have an entire tournament based around the unknown? Nothing is arranged beforehand except for the prize – a title shot of their choice. Any wrestler is able to enter, regardless of which show, division or even company they are a part of. Participants are chosen at random, bracket match ups aren’t announced beforehand, and even the types of matches featured in the tournament could be chosen via the old Raw Roulette wheel, or by viewers at home using the WWE App.
Although this may just seem like an excuse to be ‘whacky’ and ‘crazy’, it’s also an opportunity to do so much more. The random nature of this entire event could lead to so many opportunities that wouldn’t present themselves otherwise. Rookies could mix it up with established veterans, and the wonderful unpredictability of the Royal Rumble could be recreated on a weekly basis as WWE legends could just show up unannounced to take part. Wouldn’t you just love to be watching Raw, and then suddenly Shelton Benjamin comes out to face-off against The Boogeyman? It’s also a great vehicle to bring up NXT stars to the main roster, and wrestlers under 205 pounds into or out of the Cruiserweight Division. An impressive run in the tournament would be enough to give an NXT star a reason to stay around on the roster, a good showing by a Cruiserweight wrestler against heavyweight competitors could be enough to inspire them to make a permanent leap across divisions, and a loss to a Cruiserweight competitor could spur the likes of Kalisto and Enzo Amore to join the 205 Live crew in order to get their revenge. Also, as I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t have to all be completely random, it would be a great excuse for WWE to bring in their once beloved app or even WWE.com/Twitter polls in order to decide opponents, participants or stipulations (we marks love feeling like we’re in control.)
Wrestling is better when you have no idea what’s coming next, that was the key to the success of The Attitude Era, so let’s bring back some of that unpredictable magic back to Monday and Tuesday nights, and this would be the perfect vehicle to do so.
The 205 Classic
One of the greatest highlights of 2016 was the incredible Cruiserweight Classic. Filled with fantastic in-ring action, unsigned talent and plenty of memorable moments, it was can’t-miss viewing throughout the summer. However, that sadly wasn’t the case when it came to 205Live, the Cruiserweight-exclusive show that debuted on the WWE Network months later. Although it has improved since its initial inception, 205Live has never exactly set the world alight. Victim to burnt-out post-Smackdown crowds and some poor creative decisions, it isn’t even close to recreating the magic of last year’s CWC. So what’s the best way of recreating that magic? Another tournament of course.
Taking place every week exclusively on 205Live, with only tag team matches or bouts featuring the Cruiserweight Champion appearing on RAW, almost the entire division, and possibly some outside talents from NXT, Smackdown or the indies, would compete to become the 205 Classic champion, and win a championship match at one of the four big PPVs. With 2-3 decent length tournament matches featured on the WWE Network show every week, it would give the competitors chance to display their talents, and ultimately give the network’s subscribers to consistently tune in.
This idea isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it doesn’t need to be. Ultimately, if you’re tuning in to a Cruiserweight-only show, chances are all you want to see is some damn good wrestling, and this is exactly what the tournament would provide us.
Rising Star/Who’s NXT?
Similar to Ring of Honor’s annual Top Prospect Tournament, the idea behind this one is simple – take unsigned professional wrestlers, or NXT signees that have yet to make their television debut, and throw them into a tournament together. Matches would play out on a weekly basis on NXT TV, with the finals taking place at a Takeover event. The winner would receive an NXT contract, an NXT title shot on a future episode, and possibly a nice little trophy for their troubles.
The beauty of this tournament is that nobody has to get signed from it. Much like the Cruiserweight Classic that mostly featured unsigned wrestlers, it can act as a proving ground for outside talents to show what they can do under the bright WWE lights. With outside talents that are popular on the indies, there can be some reservations from WWE officials that their popularity or style may not transfer well to their company. However, if they place potential signees into this tournament first, it will give them an idea of how they can perform on a big stage, and how the NXT universe will react to them. Another benefit of this tournament would be the chance for WWE’s performance centre trainees to get between the ropes with experienced, indie veterans. As these participants usually only compete on NXT house shows, mostly with other relatively inexperienced wrestlers, being in matches against journeyed grapplers that really know what they’re doing will give them invaluable experience.
Putting on a tournament like this makes sense from every aspect – it gives younger talents the experience and exposure they need, unsigned wrestlers to show off their skills and impress the powers at be, and ultimately, it would give us, the fans, months of fantastic wrestling tournament action.
Eddie Guerrero Memorial Cup
In the last few years, we’ve seen WWE pay tribute to some of its most beloved hall of famers that have sadly been taken away from us, with memorial tournaments such as the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and now with the Mae Young Classic. With that in mind, I think it’s about time they paid tribute to one of the most popular and influential wrestlers of all time. Taking the concept directly from the Chris Candido Memorial Tag Team Tournament held by TNA in 2005, the Eddie Guerrero Memorial Cup would take place on the main roster, and would consist of tag teams made up of one veteran paired up with one rookie, either from NXT or anyone on the main roster that has less than five years overall pro wrestling experience. The winning team would receive the memorial cup itself as well as a tag team title shot. Eddie Guerrero was not only a multi-time tag team champion, he’s also been a huge influence to so many wrestlers due to his unbelievable in-ring ability. Multiple members of the current WWE roster have made it very clear how much of an influence Guerrero has had on their styles and careers. With him still being such a popular figure with fans around the world, and an important influence to much of their roster, it makes sense for Eddie Guerrero to be the next recipient of a memorial tournament in WWE, especially one which has a concept centred around veterans mentoring rookies. Understandably, it’s unlikely that WWE would use the same concept as a former TNA tournament, but the most important part is that one of the greatest gets the respect and honour he deserves. Whatever the concept, the Eddie Guerrero Memorial Cup would be fantastic regardless.
If you’re interested in wrestling tournaments, click here for my Top 10 Best Wrestling Tournament Matches.