WWE is on the Road to WrestleMania and picking up speed. While there are a lot of things up in the air as we head toward the biggest show of the year, one thing’s almost certain – all the major titles on both brands will be up for grabs in Orlando on April 2. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to explore what might happen with each of the championships. Then, I’ll give you my fantasy scenario for each belt. Let’s start with the flagship show, Monday Night Raw.
WWE Cruiserweight Championship – The WWE creative team did a fantastic job with the Cruiserweight Classic last summer. The tournament was one of the best original programs ever aired on the WWE Network, and a new generation of fans was introduced to the exciting work of these dynamic performers. Then, the entire division was moved to Raw, and everything sort of fell apart. The matches were good, but the audience didn’t seem invested in the action. The cruiserweights got their own show, 205 Live, on the WWE Network, and the characters began to flesh themselves out a bit. It still didn’t transfer to the “big show.” WWE seems to think that everyone who watches Raw is a network subscriber, but that’s just not true. The WWE Universe still didn’t connect with the product. As far as the fans were concerned, there were no story lines, and none of the characters resonated with the fan base. Then, Neville went crazy. The self-proclaimed King of the Cruiserweights got healthy, got jacked, and got pissed off. Then, he proceeded to run roughshod over the rest of the division. People started to notice. The crowd reacts when Neville hits the stage, and other wrestlers like Gentleman Jack Gallagher and Rich Swann are starting to gain traction. Having Austin Aries come in for commentary on the Cruiserweight matches was also a nice touch. What to do with the belt – Long live The King of the Cruiserweights. Neville not only needs to hold onto the belt until WrestleMania, but well beyond. The creative team can use his dominating heel persona to elevate some babyface stars in the division. The time for a title switch is a year from now, at WrestleMania 34. With a year to build the drama and make Neville seem invincible, it will be a big deal when someone finally topples The King.
Raw Tag Team Championship – It took roughly a year for WWE to realize that Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were not suited for campy comedy bits and promo wars with New Day. While those tactics worked remarkably well for the babyfaces, it wasn’t a good fit for a heel team. Instead of coming off as cool and a little edgy, Gallows and Anderson came off as clueless and out of touch. To WWE’s credit, Gallows and Anderson have experience a resurgence as their characters have moved away from comedy and back into what made them so successful in Japan. The creative team needs to take a cue from the writers at Full Sail University and book Gallows and Anderson like The Revival is portrayed on NXT. The tag champs should be all business, and only worried about keeping the belts and making money. Reforming The Club with Finn Balor when he returns could do a lot to get them over as well. What to do with the belt – This one is a bit trickier. Right now, Gallows and Anderson appear to be on a collision course with Enzo and Big Cass. That would be a good feud for this year’s WrestleMania, but it’s not something that can run for a full year. Unless the New Day is going to be re-inserted into the title picture, WWE needs to develop some more babyface contenders in a hurry. It’s doubtful that Cesaro and Sheamus are going to remain tag wrestlers for the long term, and the division is woefully lacking in legitimate contenders (both face and heel). It might be time for a phone call to NXT. Teams like Gargano and Ciampa, TM61 and possibly SanIty could bolster the tag team ranks on Monday nights. For now, putting the belt on Enzo and Cass is probably the right move. They’re over with the fans, but the act can only last so long before becoming stale. WWE should strike while the iron is still hot.
United States Championship – WWE has done a solid job of revitalizing this title, much as they have with the Intercontinental Championship over on Smackdown. Current titleholder Chris Jericho is destined to leave the company for a while following WrestleMania, so it’s important to keep the US Title relevant. One way to do this is to give the belt to someone who can carry it for a good while. That person must be high enough on the card to make the belt seem important, and challengers should be of high caliber as well. The title only seems important if “big time” wrestlers want it. What to do with the belt – It’s clear that Jericho will be dropping the belt sometime soon. He appears to be on a collision course with Kevin Owens for WrestleMania, so the obvious choice is to have that match be for the US title. However, that would probably mean that KO will drop the Universal Championship to Goldberg at Fastlane (more on that later). Instead, I’d have Jericho drop the belt to Sami Zayn at Fastlane, with interference from Owens. This would serve two purposes. Owens and Zayn have feuded in the past, and it would be unexpected for KO to help Zayn. This would underscore just how much Owens wants to get at Jericho, and make that feud even hotter, while elevating the US Title at the same time. At WrestleMania, Zayn should defend the belt in a ladder or Fatal Four-Way match with stars like Cesaro, Sheamus, Russev and maybe even Finn Balor.
Raw Women’s Championship – This seems easier to me than most of the rest. Right now, Bayley is the Raw Women’s Champion, but I don’t expect that to hold up. Since both Sasha Banks and Dana Brooke interfered in the match, expect Charlotte to lodge a protest on next week’s Raw. Since Stephanie McMahon has given the impression that she’s not a Bayley fan, it’s likely that the match will be declared void, and the belt will go back to Charlotte, at least for now. What to do with the belt – Charlotte should hold onto the belt until WrestleMania, and Bayley shouldn’t be “allowed” to challenge her again. Instead, contenders like Nia Jax and Banks should lodge claims for the title, and engage with Bayley in a series of matches to determine a number one contender for WrestleMania. Have Jax interfere in Bayley’s matches, and Banks cause trouble for Nia. In the end, it should be a Fatal Four-Way in Orlando, with Bayley going over. (Call it Daniel Bryan booking – a way to get a crowd favorite even more over.) Charlotte, the best heel in the business right now, should always be in the title picture, but this gives the creative team more storylines to work with since Jax and Banks would be inserted into the title picture with the buildup. Also, if Ms. Flair doesn’t take the pin at WrestleMania, she can still hold onto her pay-per-view winning streak, and save that first individual loss for an eventual matchup with NXT’s current women’s champion, Asuka. If done correctly, this buildup could make the Raw Women’s Division the most compelling on Monday Night.
WWE Universal Championship – It appears that the stage is set for Goldberg to take the big red belt off Kevin Owens at Fastlane in March. While I don’t necessarily want to see a part-timer face another part-timer for the top prize in WWE at WrestleMania, it seems that it’s bound to be Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title in April. Logic dictates that Lesnar would finally get his revenge on Goldberg, it’s what happens after WrestleMania that’s important. What to do with the belt – It’s bad for business to have Lesnar take the belt at WrestleMania, then essentially disappear for six months, as he did a couple of years ago. With his recent losses to Goldberg, Lesnar can’t afford to win the belt, then lose it again in rapid fashion. The best bet would be for Owens to defeat Goldberg at Fastlane, with interference from Lesnar. This keeps the feud between Goldberg and Lesnar red-hot, and makes the match so big that it doesn’t need the belt. Then, the probable Owens-Jericho bout would be for the Universal Title, with Owens finally winning a match on his own. Then WWE has a credible, full-time Universal Champion coming out of WrestleMania and still gets to have the big money match between Lesnar and Goldberg as well.
Most likely, none of this will actually happen, since I don’t work for WWE. This is only my take on what should happen to keep interest up both before and after WrestleMania. Check in next time for my take on what should happen on SmackDown Live headed into Orlando in April.