In the weeks since WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, the WWE Universe has seen some new direction on Raw and SmackDown Live, with new stars arriving, some stars changing brands via the Superstar Shakeup and a few stars returning from injury. It’s been a busy month, and it’s always interesting to look forward and see where the story lines take us.
No matter how things come together, WWE needs to focus on bringing some new faces to the top of the card. There won’t always be a Brock Lesnar or a Bill Goldberg or an Undertaker to hold down the fort for WrestleMania season. (Unless some new stars are built up to that level in the meantime.) When WrestleMania 34 rolls around, WWE needs to have some new stars ready to take over the top spots. Here are 10 WWE superstars who need to hold belts between now and April 8th, 2018 in New Orleans.
Natalya – WWE made the right move when it essentially traded the top heels in the women’s division. Charlotte moves from Raw to SmackDown Live while Alexa Bliss will contend for the Raw Women’s Championship after winning the SD belt twice. Bliss and Flair were in the same situation. Both had bested all their “legitimate” competition. They were still delivering high-quality matches, but against the same opponents week after week. This is where Natalya comes in. Nattie is one of the few “old school” women on the roster that can hang with the likes of Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley and the rest of the “new breed” of female competitors. If she were given the belt, it opens the door for a face turn, and a great series of matches with Charlotte. If she stays heel, she can battle with Lynch and current champion Naomi. The thing that Natalya brings to the table more than just about any woman on the roster (with the possible exception of Sasha Banks) is that she can work as a face or a heel with equal effectiveness. Having the Queen of Hearts take the title helps WWE avoid stale matchups in the women’s division week after week.
Bray Wyatt – Every time WWE looks like it’s ready to pull the trigger on a huge push for the Eater of Worlds, they pull the rug out from under him shortly thereafter. There are certain stars who can sit at the top of the card without a belt to bolster them. John Cena, Brock Lesnar, the Rock and Undertaker all come to mind. The problem is that those guys didn’t get to that place without building championship cred along the way. Wyatt has that type of talent, and he lives his gimmick. However, he needs a few significant title runs under his belt in order to be able to carry a show without the gold.
Enzo and Big Cass – If you are a regular watcher of Monday Night Raw, you might have noticed that Enzo and Cass haven’t been getting as much crowd reaction for their entrance as they used to. They’re still over, but they’re starting to come down with Dolph Ziggler Disease (DZD). That’s an affliction where the crowd loves you, and you put on a great show, but never quite achieve the goal you spend all your promo time talking about. Enzo is a great mic worker, but his shtick is going to get old fast if he and Cass can’t back up what he throws down. I really hoped these two would be headed to SmackDown, where a new set of fans could catch their act, but that didn’t happen. WWE needs to put gold on these guys before fans stop caring.
Braun Strowman – Strowman has been booked as an absolute monster. He’s believable in the role, and has improved in the ring. He’s incredibly strong and startlingly athletic for a man his size. However, at some point, there must be a reason for everything he does. Strowman can’t wander around destroying people and equipment forever. Give him the Universal Title for a while, and suddenly he goes from intriguing giant to unstoppable beast. Otherwise, the audience will start wondering why Kurt Angle doesn’t just fire him, if only to save money on ambulances, medical bills and ring construction.
Nia Jax – Nia is basically the female version of Braun Strowman. She’s dominant in the ring and has improved her skill set to where she looks believable mauling the competition. Unless she starts winning some big matches, she’s just another attraction. The formula is becoming too familiar. Nia comes to the ring in a multi-woman match, destroys everyone in sight for the majority of the match, and then loses when the other two or three or four competitors finally realize that they have to work together to beat her. She needs some wins to keep her credibility.
Luke Harper – Harper is an excellent worker. There were hints of this when he was simply playing a heavy in the Wyatt Family. His skills were even more evident when he battled Randy Orton for the No. 1 contender’s spot. Then, without Wyatt or Orton to concentrate on, Harper sort of lost his direction. As a big man with good athleticism and a good character, Harper is too valuable to simply disappear. He should be given a decent run with the U.S. or Intercontinental titles, with an eye on pushing him to the main event over time.
Baron Corbin – It’s been clear for a while that WWE has high hopes for Corbin, who has improved both on the mic and in the ring since his main roster debut a year or so ago. Corbin has really nailed the Lone Wolf character, and needs to get some big wins under his belt. Here, it’s not a matter of credibility. Corbin is a believable heel. This is a matter of progress. If Corbin is going to headline PPVs in the future, he needs to spend some time carrying gold to get ready.
Miz – I debated this one for a while. Miz is a fantastic heel. I admire his heel work, and even though I know it’s all a work, I still hate him a little as a person. That’s the sign of a top-notch heel. I don’t think he needs a belt to remain a top heel, but he’s even better when he’s got that gold over his shoulder. Regular Miz is annoying. Champion Miz is off-the-charts annoying. If WWE is going to use Miz to build babyface stars, putting a belt on him would speed up the process.
The Revival – The Top Guys remind me of the tag team version of Natalya. They work an old-school style, and are consummate tag team artists. They’ve been effective heels throughout their NXT run, and were on their way to a similar main-roster run until injury derailed their push. If The Revival took the Raw belts, they could work with babyface and heel teams with equal aplomb. That type of versatility allows WWE to push any team it wants into the title picture.
Shinsuke Nakamura – I’ve been watching wrestling in some form for more than 30 years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd explode for a wrestler’s debut like the SmackDown Live audience did for the King of Strong Style. Nakamura could be the next coming of AJ Styles in terms of ring work. He could be the next coming of Shawn Michaels, Rock or even Stone Cold in terms of crowd appeal and merchandise sales. Nakamura has the potential to be the face of WWE for the next 10 years. All he needs is a belt to get him started.
WWE needs new stars, and it needs them soon. There’s no lack of talent on either of the two main rosters. It all comes down to booking. The creative team won’t have John Cena, Brock Lesnar or even the Hardy Boys forever. It’s time to take those big names and create some new stars.