Do you know what? It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.
Now, admittedly this is coming straight after watching the best WWE television broadcast of the year in this week’s SmackDown, so my feelings on the product are on a bit of a high. I don’t think that tells the whole story though – WWE really is better than it’s ever been and as a fan I have a great deal to look forward to in 2017.
I’ve been, at times, viscerally critical of WWE in 2016 and I stand by most of those criticisms because I think at more than any other time in history, WWE has had the opportunities this year to eclipse anything they’ve done before but rather than focus on quality, they’ve gone a little down the route of quantity.
The more I look at that, the more it starts to make sense. They’re making their bed before they lie in it. There’s just one problem with that – I’m not sure it’s a big enough bed.
Let’s take a look at five of the things I think are going to be great going into the New Year.
- Baron Corbin
Leaping straight onto the bandwagon after this past month’s showing, Baron Corbin has an absolutely fantastic future. Although in truth, I’ve been singing this guy’s praises for a while, as he offers something different to the rest of the roster. He absolutely killed it in his first heavyweight title match on Tuesday night and that isn’t said lightly. I think he is still at the stage where he needs a match built around him to shine, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing because Corbin’s differentiator is his attitude. He brings that to his matches and he’ll be fine. Of him and Strowman, the monsters of the rosters, I’m heavily betting on Corbin having the brighter of the two futures. Speaking of which…
- Braun Strowman
I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I know not everyone likes tea. But frankly, drink Strowman in, man, because the guy is the natural successor to Henry and Show – a spectacle in and of himself. And you know what? He has the ability to be better than the lot of them. I spend a lot of the winter watching strong man events, and it’s something I deeply respect for the time and dedication it takes to make it anywhere near close to the top in what’s becoming an ever-increasingly competitive environment and if Strowman can really bring that vibe to his matches and interactions with others, if he can really toss them around like they were kettle bells then that’s something I’m on board with. Not every match has to feature high flyers or match technicians – I want to see the spectacles as well. I’m not sure Strowman has to wrestle every week or every PPV – make him that special event that Brock Lesnar is now and you’ll have a star on your hands. That isn’t going to happen, we all know that – but that’s what I’d do with him. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to him never facing Big Show and being the big guy who is constantly screwed out of his opportunities for the big belt.
Yes, yes, I know. He’s totally going to face Big Show soon. As a previous favourite of mine on here would have said… HOSS FIGHT.
- AJ Styles
AJ Styles is still on WWE TV and he’s in a prominent position.
I’m really sorry, but I’m not going to go into more detail than that – it’s literally freaking awesome that the guy is on my WWE programming and I’m going to revel in it for as long as I can because it sure as shovelled sugar isn’t going to last forever.
- SmackDown Live
I didn’t think this was the best of moves when they did it in the brand split, because I thought it would always be the ‘B’ show struggling to make weight with its bigger Monday night brother, but I’ve been proved spectacularly wrong. SmackDown is now my viewing pleasure of choice and if I had to miss one of the shows it would be Raw I’d voluntarily miss because SmackDown is the wrestling show I remember – punchy, anarchic in places and featuring a mix of established stars and up-and-comers.
- Royal Rumble is coming up
I’m a huge mark for the Royal Rumble. If it were up to me I’d pack the whole thing top to bottom full of star power, make it a surprise who wins every single year and make it the one event that nobody can predict and be the epitome of WWE’s mantra that ‘anything can happen’. What would I do this year, I hear nobody ask? Well, nobody, I’d have Bully Ray debut as a singles guy and win the whole damn thing as a prelude to the most dominant heel run any of us have ever seen. In the absence of that happening, I’m just going to revel in the fact that, for once, I can’t predict with any certainty who is going to win because they have left themselves wide open with this one and that’s exactly how it should be.
PS If Roman wins I riot.
PPS If Triple H wins I riot.
PPPS If James Ellsworth wins I’m not watching WWE anymore.
It’s still one of the best times of year for me as a WWE fan because I love the Royal Rumble. It’s unique in the year, for all the Battle Royals that might take place – there’s only one Royal Rumble and it’s the one event that still makes me mark out like a kid. I’ll do another full preview as I did last year nearer the time, but this year’s is one I’m really, really looking forward to.
Those are my five reasons to be cheerful. Honourable mentions to The Undertaker, whose promise to not let Wrestlemania define him has had a profound effect on his appearances and storylines…oh wait, no it hasn’t. Truly honourable mention to Heath Slater who has carved out a new, much more interesting niche for himself than any he has had during his time with WWE this year. I’ve always had a lot of time for the guy and I’m pleased to see him part of something that actually is something rather than just a bad comedy segment.
Does my article mean I think everything green in the garden, then? No, of course it’s not and I would suggest the first thing that needs to happen is a severe trim to WWE’s programming because I’m an avid fan and I can’t find enough time to watch everything WWE puts out. I don’t watch NXT regularly any more and I have never seen 205 Live. With 5 hours of TV a week and sometimes 6 hours of PPV in a month I just don’t have the time, or the will, to fit in any more WWE into my small amount of free time. One PPV a month, even less, perhaps, is enough. If SmackDown proved anything this week it’s that you don’t need PPVs any more for the big moments – remember, WWE – anything can, supposedly, happen.
What do you guys think? Are you optimistic about 2017? Are my five things anywhere near enough to get you guys excited? What would your top five positive things be?
It’s just left for me to say Happy New Year guys – and thank you to everyone who has read my articles in 2016 and especially those who commented (Joe Sondag you are a comments beast and I salute you) – it’s been a joy to write for you guys and I’m sure the new year will bring in plenty more talking points for me to gob on about.