Thursday, June 13, 2024
EditorialWWE 2023 New Year Resolutions: Title Reigns, NXT Call-Ups & More

WWE 2023 New Year Resolutions: Title Reigns, NXT Call-Ups & More

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It’s a New Year, yes it is!

Today is the day everyone tries to set new goals for themselves in the hopes they can change their life around just because the calendar changed. It’s entirely symbolic, but it’s as good a time as any to start making adjustments.

I’ve been writing up New Year Resolutions for WWE here at eWrestlingNews for the past few years to varying degrees of success. I’m glad to see a few from last year ended up coming true. Dijak ditched the T-Bar name, 205 Live went away and so on. Some others didn’t happen and will continue onto this list, along with some other ideas spawned out of this crazy 2022 that we had and I never could have seen coming in January!

Let’s get into the seventh annual New Year’s resolutions that I have for what I’d like to see in WWE. This includes general ideas, specifics about Superstars and more.

Keep in mind that while some of these are serious and legitimate, many are just humorous or on the kayfabe side of things. It’s all in the name of fun and retrospection.

Bring Back More People

Triple H has brought back several Superstars who belonged to be on the WWE roster, like Johnny Gargano, Braun Strowman, Dakota Kai and Bray Wyatt. We should see more of that in 2023.

Not everyone can be re-signed, and not everyone should. I’d argue Hit Row has been kind of a waste, for example. And when you look at the talent released in 2020, 2021 and 2022, some of them were well-deserved to be let go. I’m not clamoring for the return of Lars Sullivan, to be honest, and I think some talent like Trey Baxter is better off in Ring of Honor.

But there are a TON of wrestlers I’d like to see at least get looked at for a possible return, not even counting the ones that are signed elsewhere (a la how I doubt WWE can snatch Keith Lee back from AEW right now).

  • FTR’s contracts with AEW are up in April. Start pitching how you can bring The Revival back.
  • Miro isn’t doing anything in AEW. Let’s see Rusev return if possible.
  • Matt Cardona, Chelsea Green and Curt Hawkins should be on the list. Hawkins would make for a great contributor to the Performance Center and NXT family.
  • Maybe think about Heath Slater, Curtis Axel and Kassius Ohno for Performance Center roles, too.
  • What happened with Harry Smith? Can we get him for NXT Europe?
  • Any chance Mauro Ranallo can be enticed to come back for the play-by-play position of Monday Night Raw instead of Kevin Patrick, who is a fine member of the broadcast team, but not as a commentator, in my mind.
  • Can we get Franky Monet and John Morrison back?
  • Don’t sleep on Tyler Breeze. Maybe even bring back Fandango, if he’s down, but Breeze should be a guarantee to re-sign.

Lure this talent back. You lost a lot of good people in the past few years who can be helpful contributors to the roster in a multitude of ways.

Don’t Mess Up NXT Europe

NXT UK flopped for several reasons. Frankly, I think it was a combination of a rather stale product, not enough big names to garner interest, Peacock issues making it annoying to watch since that transition and the pre-taped atmosphere also taking any “must-see” element away. It’s easier for my job to know spoilers, but I know that I’m overloaded with wrestling content to watch as it is, so any opportunity I had to bypass this while still keeping up with what was going on, I took.

Maybe the market just isn’t there, and NXT Europe is already doomed. But you have to at least try as hard as you can, or I don’t see the reason why this is happening in the first place.

One major problem to address is the lack of star power. This might be too hard to pull off, but I think WWE needs to make its first champion someone noteworthy like Sheamus, Drew McIntyre or Finn Balor.

This can’t be a roster of just bringing back some of the people from NXT UK, signing a few other unknowns and thinking that will work. Unless, of course, the intention isn’t to make this anywhere near as big as what it used to be, but something that is VERY low-key.

That might even be how WWE needs to approach this. Maybe the solution to avoid failure is to have very low expectations in the first place, with NXT Europe being about on par with NXT Level Up, more so than Raw/SmackDown or even NXT.

I don’t think a weekly television program will work, but you could get away with having maybe one show a month as a special showcase. Then, maybe, you can do the same with other markets, where you have NXT Asia, NXT South America and NXT Africa. Sorry, Australia, I don’t think you need an entire brand to yourself. That would be four shows per month dedicated to those four continents, making up the full calendar. And then, you can have a couple pay-per-views of NXT Worlds Collide where those four brands and NXT USA do battle.

Learn from the mistakes of the past. Don’t copy and paste the same problems. That is your goal for NXT Europe in 2023.

Don’t Mess Up Money in the Bank

I’m one of the seemingly few people who actually likes the idea that Money in the Bank can be used for all titles, rather than just the two top belts. To me, it opens up more possibilities to be unpredictable and bail you out of a bad situation if you suddenly need a new NXT champion or a new intercontinental champion or whatever.

So while I’d like to see some more clarification that yes, you can opt to challenge for the tag team titles and so on, I’d even more so like to see WWE treat Money in the Bank with the proper care that hasn’t happened in years.

For a while, WWE has gotten into this rut of having one of the 2 briefcases gone by either the end of the night during the pay-per-view or within a few days, if not just because they probably can’t be bothered to plan out two briefcase runs at once.

And then, on top of that, they’ve done things like have Austin Theory lose his cash-in during an open challenge, just to win the United States title a few weeks later. Why?!

I’d rather MITB stay a pay-per-view, than to be put on the WrestleMania card. That remains to be seen. Some people think that’s a step in the right direction, but while I disagree, I’m willing to see if that’s one of the ways WWE starts to care more about it. I’d rather have the Andre the Giant and Chyna Memorial Battle Royals, which I’ve pitched numerous times.

But I just want WWE to really think about who they want to give the briefcases to before they settle on someone and find themselves with no idea what to do.

Plan it out. Have an idea in mind of when that Superstar will win the title (both people winning is a necessity after 2022) and don’t fall into the trap of jobbing them out on the road to that cash-in, either. This philosophy of “they’ll be fine to lose over and over because they’re holding the briefcase” is flawed.

Maybe this can be used to split The Tribal Chief’s titles again? Could Sasha Banks be re-signed, given the briefcase and cash in to win the title off Bianca Belair or Becky Lynch if she beats Ronda Rousey? There are probably lots of good ideas that can happen. Just don’t go with the “we’ll figure it out later” mentality that almost always ends poorly.

Properly Plan the 2023 Draft & Shuffle the Raw, NXT and SmackDown Rosters

Just like with the Money in the Bank, the roster itself needs actual planning, which WWE seemed to be severely allergic to in recent years.

It’s not even as though some of this takes all that much time, either. That’s what can be so frustrating about it.

A few hours is all you need, at most, to get all the members of the creative team together at a conference table with laptops and a presentation board that includes a spreadsheet with all the names of each wrestler on Raw, SmackDown, NXT, the Performance Center recruits and any guest free agent names you have in the wings (ie, Brock Lesnar, Edge, John Cena, Logan Paul).

Put all the Raw and SmackDown talent on the same list. Start fresh. Move them in the spreadsheet to the red or blue brands one by one as you determine who needs to be where. For instance, if you want to keep couples together, start pairing them off just like you do with the tag teams (unless you plan to split them up), and as you’re going along, try to pitch ideas of who they might feud with that are now on that list. You’ll start to see when things get repetitive and how you need to mix it up.

That will help with the NXT call-ups, too. Take a good, hard look at the roster and try to imagine something like 10 potential feuds for each person that you’d like to see over the course of the next year. That way, you have nearly one program per month with some overlap and some flexibility for injuries or going in a different direction depending on feuds that might stretch longer.

Repurpose wrestlers. Form new tag teams. Demote talent to NXT that need to spice things up. Actually plan out as much of WrestleMania 40 that you can by the time WrestleMania 39 is about to take place and you’ll find it much easier to sort out all the television and pay-per-view content for the rest of 2023 and The Road to WrestleMania 2024.

Specific NXT Call-Ups & Demotions

As far as people that I particularly want to see graduate to the main roster from NXT, or go from Raw or SmackDown back down to NXT in 2023, I have a few ideas in mind:

  • Cameron Grimes absolutely needs to move on from NXT. There isn’t anything left for him to do, realistically.
  • Toxic Attraction is more than ready for the main roster and Mandy Rose’s title reign has to end at least by Stand & Deliver, in my mind.
  • Bron Breakker is ready. Call him up after you settle on the next champion.
  • Depending on who beats Breakker, I think Grayson Waller and Carmelo Hayes (possibly with Trick Williams) are ready.
  • Duke Hudson might be better off staying in NXT for a little while longer, but I wouldn’t be opposed to trying him out on the main roster.
  • Indi Hartwell has to move on from NXT. Sink or swim. Even if she ends up just being enhancement talent, I think she’s approaching the point of no return where she’s at.
  • Let’s promote Pretty Deadly.
  • JD McDonagh is someone I wouldn’t mind seeing on Raw or SmackDown to fill out the midcard.
  • Roderick Strong has to get out of NXT. I don’t know if he’s going to amount to much on the main roster, but maybe he’d be a good fit for a tag team guy, at least, if not a midcarder to start.
  • Alba Fyre? Meiko Satomura? Maybe even Katana Chance and Kayden Carter? Think about it.
  • Gallus could make the transition well enough, I think.
  • If you’re looking for another jobber, Ikemen Jiro is a fun talent who could fill that role.
  • Drew Gulak is already down in NXT, it seems. He was one of my main choices to go to that brand. Good on you for that.
  • Mustafa Ali could be a big fish in a small pond in NXT. The same could be said for Cedric Alexander.
  • Akira Tozawa on the main roster might be too damaged. On NXT, though, he could be a bad ass again.
  • Shelton Benjamin would certainly be beneficial to the NXT roster getting to work with him.
  • I’d argue Dana Brooke might be a good fit for NXT, similar to how Mandy Rose upgraded after going back down.
  • Tamina makes a lot of sense to me to go back to NXT, even if it’s just for a stint.
  • Shanky doesn’t have any reason to be on the main roster. Commander Azeez is MIA. If you think there is any potential for either of them, put them in NXT. But if you don’t think they’re going anywhere, just release them already.

Don’t Botch Edge’s Remaining Time

Supposedly, Edge is drawing near to the end of his career, which could possibly be as soon as this summer.

If that’s the case, I don’t want to see The Rated-R Superstar wasting any more time messing around with The Judgment Day. That feud’s gone on long enough and wasn’t worth all those months.

Budget your time with Edge while you still have him. Make sure you don’t leave anything left on the “what if” table.

It is better to do 10 different short-term one-month feuds and cram 100% of what you can give over each of them in quick fashion than it is to have just two people feud with Edge, stretch it out for months, and have him retire with all these people he never wrestled.

Whoever Edge has on his bucket list, let him work a program with that person. Just do it. It’s that simple. Don’t get in the way of it by feeling like you have all the time in the world when you know damn well that isn’t true.

Look at what happened with Undertaker and Sting, or The Four Horsewomen, and what might be the case with how we don’t know if we’re ever going to get the RK-Bro split if Randy Orton can even return to fight Matt Riddle.

Edge returning was a gift. Don’t take it for granted.

Split the Unified Titles or Actually Unify Them Already

I’m convinced WWE didn’t have anything better in mind of what to do for WrestleMania 38, so they just tossed Brock Lesnar in there with Roman Reigns again and put both belts on the line as a “break glass in the event of an emergency” play, and had zero idea what to do going forward.

Frankly, I never would have unified the belts to begin with. But once that happened, I think they’ve already gone past their expiration date to shit or get off the pot.

If the world titles and tag team titles are going to remain “undisputed unified” belts, they should stop carrying around two sets with different distinctions. But ideally, I would rather see the belts split back up, rather than one champion across both brands.

Just make sure you do it in a decent fashion. Don’t just have Adam Pearce come out, say the belts are split during the draft, and call it a day.

I love the suggestion of having a ladder match factor into this, with someone grabbing one belt and the other belt being grabbed by their opponent. Or maybe Money in the Bank becomes that you can only challenge for one title, rather than the set. There are ways around it, but I think 2023 needs to see some official decision on this unification.

New Tag Team Championship Title Belt Designs

Every year, I have this on the list. This time around, I finally feel like it can happen.

The Raw and SmackDown tag team title belts are hideous. I hated them when they looked like pennies. I’ve hated them while they look like nickels or quarters.

I don’t like the red and blue straps. They don’t even have removable side plates!

Either unify the belts properly with one set of titles, or truly separate them. But in any case, do not keep the sentinel head design. Go with something either like what the women’s tag team titles are, something closer to what NXT has going on, or a brand new design that is basic and not ugly.

Title Reigns That Should Happen

Rounding out this list are some suggestions I’d like to see for title reigns to happen at some point in 2023, that I feel aren’t just necessarily my personal preferences, but some as close to objectively “right” decisions to try to aim for:

  • Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa should definitely win some tag team gold. Arguably, both should hold midcard titles, too. I’m down for Gargano being the one to beat Austin Theory for the United States Championship.
  • I’d like to see Sheamus win that Intercontinental Championship to become a grand slam champion.
  • As previously mentioned, think about Sheamus, McIntyre, Balor and/or Harry Smith for the NXT European Championship.
  • Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn beating The Usos for the tag titles at WrestleMania feels so perfect to me.
  • I’d rather see Rhea Ripley beat Bianca Belair for the Raw Women’s Championship than for Charlotte Flair to dethrone The EST of WWE, but I can see an argument for Flair.
  • Put a belt on Dijak. If it isn’t the NXT Championship, at least the NXT North American Championship should go his way.
  • Don’t lose sight of Cody Rhodes becoming world champion. It needs to happen if not in 2023, then at WrestleMania 40 in 2024.

Those are my suggestions, but what ideas do you have in mind, particularly for the wrestlers who didn’t make my list? Do you have any resolutions for yourself this year? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

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