WWE is ready to finish up a solid year, heading into 2016 with a brand new World Heavyweight Champion and a bright outlook within its developmental territory, NXT.
Seth Rollins will eventually return to the main roster and Brock Lesnar will peak the interest of WWE fans whenever he makes another return.
WrestleMania 32 from AT&T Stadium in Dallas is sure to threaten many attendance records, not only for WWE, but any sporting event.
Those are the things we know. But what do we not know? It’s often the things that catch us off guard, those that are unexpected, that are most entertaining.
Looking at the coming year, here are five bold predictions for WWE.
Titus O’Neil Breaks Out
On the recent edition of Monday Night Raw — the one dedicated to the annual Slammy Awards — Neville was chosen as the Breakout Superstar of the Year for 2015. Could Titus O’Neil win that award in 2016?
We can hope that WWE will allow this man to realize his potential.
O’Neil is not only a tremendous athlete, he’s incredibly entertaining. He has a good physique and the kind of size WWE likes in its top guys. There is no reason O’Neil can’t be a top guy. O’Neil will likely never be WWE World Heavyweight champion. But that doesn’t mean he can’t rise toward the top of the card.
The Prime Time Players have been a fun tag team, but they haven’t won anything. O’Neil doesn’t need Darren Young and if he’s ever going to reach his potential, he’ll have to do it alone.
WWE needs to quit using him for a comedy act — though he is very good in that role — and start booking him in a more serious one.
Jeff Hardy and Kurt Angle Make Their Returns
In 2015, WWE saw the returns of Alberto Del Rio and The Dudley Boyz. In 2016, there will be two big returns that will eclipse both of them.
Jeff Hardy and Kurt Angle both had plenty of success in WWE and both are probably toward the last part of their respective careers. Hardy hasn’t competed in WWE since the latter part of 2009. For Angle, it’s been even longer. He hasn’t appeared for the company since 2006.
While both men experienced success in TNA Wrestling, they should know that the right place to end their careers would be with WWE. In Angle’s case, that could mean just one more match. However, there would be a slew of interesting opponents for both men.
Look for both men to return to WWE in 2016 and for at least one of them to take part in a match at WrestleMania.
Kalisto Finds Succeeds on His Own
The Lucha Dragons are a fun team, but they seem limited in what they can do together, aside from the usual aerial maneuvers. However, it seems fairly obvious that WWE would like Kalisto to turn into the next Rey Mysterio.
The similarities between Mysterio and Kalisto are many, and the seeds seem to have been planted for Kalisto to have success on his own.
In the tournament to crown a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion following the injury to Seth Rollins, Kalisto was placed into the bracket. His partner, Sin Cara, was not. Not only that, but Kalisto defeated Ryback in the first round.
At the Slammy Awards, Kalisto won an award for the Salida Del Sol that he performed on one of The Usos at the TLC pay-per-view in December. His acceptance speech also showed that he doesn’t have any language barriers, and the company seems to be giving him more opportunities to speak.
WWE is known for splitting up tag teams, particularly in recent years. Plus, they have a surplus of solid teams down in NXT. Splitting Lucha Dragons could lead to a short program between Sin Cara and Kalisto, but it seems clear that Kalisto is a future star.
Jason Jordan and Chad Gable Will Make an Impact on the Main Roster
We touched on the wealth of tag teams WWE has in NXT, and the Jason Jordan-Chad Gable duo is one of them. Together, they have formed a solid pairing. Both men are tremendous athletes who are getting better with each performance as professional wrestlers.
So who will be the next call up from NXT to turn heads on the main roster? Baron Corbin would be a popular choice, as would any of the Superstars working around the main event of NXT, such as Finn Balor or Samoa Joe.
But WWE will choose to pad its tag team division on the main roster and the team of Jordan and Gable will be one that gets that opportunity.
While New Day ruled the division for a good portion of 2015, there’s always room for more teams. Look for Jordan and Gable to get the call to the main roster and after working a program with a team like The Uso’s or The Dudley Boyz to help establish them, a run at the tag team titles could be next.
Kevin Owens Will Win Superstar of the Year
Kevin Owens was actually nominated for the 2015 WWE Superstar of the Year award at the recent Slammys. Then again, so were 11 other guys.
The award eventually went to Rollins, and deservedly so. But 2016 will be the year of Owens.
Sure, WWE may have failed to capitalize on what could have even been a bigger year for Owens after he pinned John Cena in his first match, but in 2016, the company will begin to fully realize just what it has in this talent.
Owens is as good as it gets. He pulls off being an over-the-top heel very well and then backs up his words in the ring. For a bigger man, he’s unusually athletic and just knows what it takes to be a complete professional wrestler. In many ways, he’s a bit of a throwback.
Owens will need to have a tremendous year to overcome the likes of Roman Reigns, Cena, Rollins and the usual suspects at the top of the card, but he will find a way to do it. If WWE can find the right opponent for Owens to face at WrestleMania, he’ll be able to use that as a launching pad to bigger things throughout the year.
Owens has been in the business a long time, even if he’s new to WWE. He knows how to take advantage of an opportunity. WWE needs to start booking him like it did when he was in NXT. If he can regain that momentum that he had there, look out.