First and foremost, a very Happy New Year to all of you! I certainly hope you and your families had a great holiday season, and I hope the new site layout is enjoyable for all of you. As we enter the dawning of yet another year in WWE, there are of course those superstars with which we all need to keep a close eye on, and this year, there are five easy superstars that come to mind after reflecting on their 2016 campaign. With that said, here are the five superstars to look out for in 2017.
5. Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn’s an interesting case. Most people may overlook his 2016 campaign, but when you look at it deeply, he’s been as impressive as any other elite star on the roster, as he’s shown up in big match situations. This includes impressive performances at WrestleMania, Extreme Rules, Payback, Battleground and Money In The Bank, while he was embroiled in a feud with current Universal Champion Kevin Owens. Despite that however, he finds hinmself in the midst of a feud with Braun Strowman which is only to put Braun over, despite the underdog that Sami Zayn has been built up to be. WWE has teased Sami being traded to Smackdown, but to no fruition, and in hindsight, that probably would have been the best move for Sami’s career.
The bottom line is, Sami is one of the superstars that have been lost in the shuffle for RAW since the brand split. He has a Last Man Standing match scheduled for tonight, and it’s safe to say that he will lose that. We also shouldn’t foresee him winning the Royal Rumble. So with all that being said, where does Sami go from here? It’s too crowded in the current main event scene, and barring a sharp direction change, it may be another underwhelming campaign for Sami, which is unfortunate, because he is as great a worker as you’ll see in WWE. Time will tell now whether or not everybody’s favorite taxi driver will rise to prominence and unleash his full potential or if he will be relegated to obscurity and unproductive feuds going into this year.
4. The Cruiserweight Division
Yeah, all of them. I recently wrote a piece on how WWE has poorly booked the Cruiserweights and how their Achilles heel is getting the crowd to care about them. It’s amazing, because they can get two matches on RAW, but the bottom line is that there is nothing to make you invested into watching them. I’d never thought I would say this from watching them in the summer, but they have become the new bathroom break. Unless you want to invest another hour of your time in watching 205 Live after watching RAW and Smackdown for two days straight, you’ll have little idea of what the deal is with all of them coming into the show. If you ask me, the Cruiserweights on RAW have been more like a trial run as opposed to a real thing going, because that’s what it looks like in its entirety.
The addition of Neville definitely helps with star power and credibility, but behind Rich Swann, The Brian Kendrick and TJ Perkins, what is everyone else in the division doing. Actually, if you ask me, The Brian Kendrick and the recently added Neville are the only two in the division worth watching because they are the only two that have any interesting personality or some sort of charisma. Rich Swann is a great ring worker, but he severely lacks on the mic and how he carries himself. TJ Perkins talks as he’s in a play reciting lines and his dab is slightly crooked. Of course, not all hope is lost for the Cruiserweights, and as long as RAW is 3 hours, there will be some time for them, but I think a full year with the Cruiserweights on RAW will go a long way determining their future.
3. Kevin Owens
I have to be honest. I’m concerned for Kevin Owens. He’s been the Universal Champion since last August, but if we’re not being politically correct with him, his reign has been entirely forgettable. He’s been feuding with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns since his reign began, but his reign has become more about his friendship with Chris Jericho than it is about why he’s beefing with the former members of The Shield. He’s set to defend his Universal Championship against Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble in a rematch, and there’s more than a good chance that Roman Reigns take the gold off of him, even though Roman has already beaten Kevin while defending the United States Championship (why do they even bother putting the US Title on him if they’re not going to have him defend it on PPV?). This concerns me because of what will happen to Owens once he drops the Universal Championship.
Kevin Owens, I believe will be one of the ones affected by some of the negative aspects that the brand split has bestowed upon WWE. What do I mean by that? There have definitely been some positive aspects about the brand split. Superstars that otherwise wouldn’t have been featured prior to the brand split can now get some air time, Smackdown has become watchable instead of a watered down version of RAW and the spirit of competition of which brand is better is always good to see. However, one big red flag with the brand split is the lack of diversity with the matches. Each brand has a set roster, which means we may be subject to seeing different versions of the same match featuring the same superstars each week. Believe it or not, since Kevin Owens became Universal Champion in the summer of last year, Owens has had only five singles matches on RAW. His opponents in those matches? Roman Reigns three times, Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn. All those names sound familiar?
We know that Kevin Owens will probably end up feuding with Chris Jericho going into WrestleMania season, but after that subsides, where does he go? One thing I’ve noticed with Kevin Owens is that after he loses a title or a big match, he seems to spiral into a directionless tailspin. The question with him will be if he can avoid the same fate this year.
2. Braun Strowman
I think it’s evident that Braun Strowman is receiving a big push from WWE, and he has emerged as a big favorite to win the Royal Rumble. It’s actually been rumored that Braun Strowman may be facing Roman Reigns over the Universal Championship come WrestleMania 33, much to the dismay of some smarks of course. Braun certainly looks the part of an unstoppable freak of nature. I also find his speaking for a monster heel to be a little above average as well, and now time only will tell if he’s worth the risk in terms of getting a push. Right now, he’s on a similar career trajectory that Ryback had back in 2012. They both started out squashing nameless, skinny jobbers to the delight of the crowd and then they slowly progressed to main roster superstars and then straight into the main event scene. Only this time, Braun seems to be getting pushed to a high degree because his name has been mentioned in world title matches at WrestleMania. There were also reportedly some consideration in him facing the Undertaker some time last year.