“you spent a lot of time talking about wrestlemania and double or nothing this year, but what about next year? can you make predictions for next years shows? you could even talk about the wwe hall of fame if you wanted to. thanks.”
Seems like a simple enough idea.
I won’t go ahead and make predictions for 30-some matches over three shows because, well, I’m not insane. What I will do, though, is talk about some things that could very well be taking place approximately one year from now. It will be a combination of things I want to see and things I think we will see. I’ll discuss things in chronological order, starting with the WWE Hall Of Fame ceremony, then moving to both nights of WrestleMania, and then on to Double Or Nothing.
First and foremost, WrestleMania 40 will take place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philly has a long and storied history in pro wrestling, from birthing wrestlers to hosting title changes, and everything in between. In the eyes and minds of many, though, the city of Philadelphia is most synonymous with Extreme Championship Wrestling. Count me in as someone who feels the “theme” for next year’s Hall Of Fame class should be ECW. I’m not saying everyone who gets inducted should be an ECW alumnus. When WWE has a “theme” for their Hall classes, you might get a couple inductees who fit that criteria, but that’s it. For example, the Class Of 2009 was inducted in Houston, Texas. That year saw famous Texans like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Funks, and The Von Erichs go in. It also saw Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, “Cowboy” Bill Watts, Howard Finkel, and Koko B. Ware go in, so it wasn’t a strictly Texas affair. There should absolutely be some ECW flavor next year, though.
If we’re doing any sort of ECW inductions, it should start at the top with Paul Heyman. From September 1993, when Heyman was given the keys to ECW on a creative level, until April 2001, when ECW closed down, Paul Heyman WAS ECW. Everything had his fingerprints on it. If anyone involved with ECW in any way should be a Hall Of Fame inductee, it’s Heyman. That crowd would lose their minds for him, and he would become incredibly emotional, making for one of the more must-see induction speeches in WWE Hall Of Fame history. That works for me. In other years, it would be difficult to induct him, as “active” talent usually wouldn’t be going in, but Rey Mysterio really changed the game this year. Not only is Rey still active, he’s pretty much working on a regular basis. Even if Heyman is still working with Roman Reigns, or Brock Lesnar or anyone else, next year, he can get inducted in Philly without a problem.
Beyond that, it gets a little trickier for ECW inductions. When it comes to ECW talents that “belong” in the Hall Of Fame, you have acts like Rob Van Dam and The Dudley Boyz that are already WWE Hall Of Fame members. Terry Funk is also in the Hall, but as a group with his brother, Dory Jr, so he could get a solo induction. Beyond that, when it comes to a lot of people, you’re either going to need some of them to lose their jobs between now and WrestleMania 40, or you’re going to need some special teamwork between WWE and other promotions.
Taz? AEW employee. Tommy Dreamer? Impact employee. Jerry Lynn? AEW employee. Chris Jericho? AEW employee. Rhino? Impact employee. Lance Storm? Impact employee.
You’d have to expand the search a little to go beyond that.
New Jack would be a fun one, just to see what kind of video package was produced for him, but of course, he passed away in 2021 and wasn’t exactly a vocal supporter of WWE while he was alive.
Sabu is a name that would immediately come to mind for something like this, but he was part of a lawsuit filed against WWE in 2016, claiming that the company “routinely failed to care” for the wrestlers in the suit when it comes to brain injuries. The lawsuit was thrown out two years later, and although WWE has a history of eventually doing some sort of business with people who had sued them in the past, it makes the case for Sabu a lot muddier than it would otherwise be.
What about me? What about Raven? Well… he was also involved in a lawsuit against WWE, this time alongside fellow wrestlers Chris Kanyon and Mike Sanders, claiming that the company had cheated them out of health care. Like the suit involving Sabu, this one was also thrown out of court, but you still have to wonder about any remaining bad blood between the sides.
Mike Awesome is another name that might come to mind, and you can make whatever arguments you want for his induction, but the way he left ECW still leaves a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Obviously I don’t know this for sure, but I would have to make the assumption that including him in an ECW “themed” Hall Of Fame class might not be the best of ideas.
Perry Saturn is someone who found success in ECW, WCW, and the WWF. He won titles both as a tag wrestler and in singles competition. However, he was named in the same lawsuit that Sabu was involved in, so again, it makes things a lot more complicated than they might need to be.
Other than The Dudleys, nobody won more ECW Tag Team Titles than The Public Enemy, Johnny Grunge and “Flyboy” Rocco Rock. Even with that success, you can’t help but look at their one brief stint with the WWF in 1999. It lasted all of two months, and was mostly known for a match against the Acolytes on Sunday Night Heat that devolved into a shoot, with Faarooq and Bradshaw beating the shit out of them after a backstage disagreement that saw Grunge and Rock trying to change the finish of the match and not wanting to go through with what was planned. How much is that going to affect any chances of them being inducted?
Shane Douglas played a huge role in the initial success of ECW, winning the NWA World Title when the then-named Eastern Championship Wrestling was under the NWA umbrella. He would then literally throw the NWA World Title down before lifting his ECW Title and proclaiming it to be a World Title. ECW would leave the NWA, rename itself Extreme Championship Wrestling, and things would never be the same again. In all, Douglas would have four ECW World Title reigns and two ECW Television Title reigns, making him one of the most prolific singles competitors in company history. Stop me if you’ve heard this one, though… he was also part of the lawsuit that Sabu and Perry Saturn were named in. Oh, and he also had major real life heat with The Kliq, specifically Shawn Michaels and Scott Hall, for years and years. Douglas is definitely deserving of a Hall Of Fame induction, but he has a lot working against him there.
Depending on how many ECW-related names you want to put in, you could start things off with Paul Heyman, then have any mix of The Sandman (who was born and raised in Philadelphia, for an added bonus), Justin Credible, 2 Cold Scorpio, Tajiri, Masato Tanaka, Super Crazy, Bill Alfonso, and Joey Styles. Obviously, if you can make it work with some of the aforementioned names, that would be even better. I would enjoy it if WWE could work out a deal with Impact Wrestling yet again, this time having Tommy Dreamer get inducted. Other than Heyman himself, nobody gets more “E-C-Dub” chants to this day than Dreamer. It would be cool to see him weeping like a baby for the duration of his speech. As you all know, I’m a big-time mark for real emotion in pro wrestling, so I’d really enjoy something like that.
Now, it’s time to shift focus from the 2024 WWE Hall Of Fame ceremony to WrestleMania 40.
What does everyone think about Roman Reigns not only still being the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion at WrestleMania 40, but also being the World Heavyweight Champion? They could even add the Intercontinental Title, United States Title, and the NXT Title to his trophy case, giving him the WWE version of the Infinity Stones. In all seriousness, you have to think Roman will be involved at the top of the card at WrestleMania 40. Unless he’s injured, retired, or out making a movie somewhere, he has become too big a star to be moved down the card, wrestling Riddick Moss in the third match on Saturday night. Can WWE continue the current story long enough for the rumors and speculation to run wild about Roman vs The Rock next year? For multiple reasons, that has to be WWE’s ideal situation.
If not Roman vs The Rock, what would be something big enough for Roman to do at WrestleMania? If done right, and if the story can be drawn out this long, Solo Sikoa could be a great opponent for Roman, but Jey Uso could be, as well. What about someone like Bron Breakker? It’s looking less likely that he’ll get called up in the Draft after it was announced that he’ll be competing for the NXT Championship four weeks after the Draft is over, but that kind of thing can be taken care of with one week’s worth of on-screen explanations (or off-screen, with this weird new “free agent” twist to the Draft pools).
What about the other main event? I stand by the prediction I’ve been making for a long time… at some point, we’re getting Bianca Belair vs Rhea Ripley, and it will be in the Mania main event slot. As of the moment I type these words, both women are currently members of the Smackdown roster, which complicates things, especially since Bianca is on Smackdown as the Raw Women’s Champion while Rhea is there as the Smackdown Women’s Champion. Logically, this would indicate that either Rhea ends up on Raw, and we get another switcheroo with the titles like WWE enjoys doing at Draft time, or one of the women loses their title and both women remain on Smackdown, which drastically cuts down on the chances of a Mania main event. It would be really difficult to keep them apart for another 11 months if they remain on the same brand, and the shine of that match is severely dulled if they face off before WrestleMania 40 rolls around. Because it’s WWE we’re talking about, they’d probably face each other more than once, making things even worse.
If Bianca vs Rhea isn’t in the cards, or if it isn’t going to end up with a main event spot, I think it’s a safe guess to have the World Heavyweight Title involved in one of the main events. Actually… scratch that. I don’t care how it happens, nor do I care if there’s a title on the line… I need Gunther vs Brock Lesnar in a spotlight match at WrestleMania. I don’t mean one of those short Brock matches, either. Give Brock the extra money. Whatever it takes. Just give Brock and Gunther 20 minutes like Gunther and Sheamus had at Clash At The Castle, or even 17 minutes like Gunther, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre had at WrestleMania 39. Make it happen, WWE.
As for the rest of WrestleMania… Conor McGregor will probably end up being on the show. He probably won’t be in a match, although I guess that wouldn’t shock me, but he’ll be there. Logan Paul will probably have a match against someone who can help him look like a million bucks. If you want to anger some people, go ahead and say that any combination of Kenny Omega, “Hangman” Adam Page, and The Young Bucks will be wrestling at WrestleMania. To anger an entirely new set of people, say that Omega will defeat Reigns to close the weekend out. While we’re on the subject of angering certain groups of people…
You’ll anger an entirely different set of people if you say that any combination of Kenny Omega, “Hangman” Adam Page, and The Young Bucks will be wrestling at Double Or Nothing 2024. If any of them are still under AEW contract by Double Or Nothing (as it is, all of their contracts will expire before then), they should play a big role in that show. While there’s still time for things to improve, the build to this year’s Double Or Nothing (assumed) main event has been underwhelming to say the least. The “Four Pillars” idea is perfectly fine, in theory, but elevating three people to the main event at the same time is a difficult task. A very difficult task. Then, you’re only making it worse by having those three people, none of which are considered strong on the microphone, cut promo after promo against MJF, who is one of the best “talkers” in the business today. If this was building for a match on Dynamite or even another pay-per-view, it would be a little easier to deal with, but at AEW’s biggest show of the year? I know I’ve said all of this before, but it’s still relevant, and only becoming more relevant with each promo segment AEW puts MJF, Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin, and Jungle Boy in together.
I’ve seen a few people say that Double Or Nothing 2024 is when Bryan Danielson should finally reach the top of the AEW mountain and become their World Champion. I dig the idea, but that event is still a little over a year away. Can you keep Danielson away from the World Title picture for that long? If not, how many more times can he lose “the big one” in AEW? These are stats I’ve mentioned before, but Danielson is 0-5-1 in AEW or RoH World Title matches since joining the AEW roster. Outside of those title matches, he is 33-3-1 as a singles wrestler on AEW television or pay-per-view. I’m already sick and tired of seeing him win, win, win, win, win, and then lose a title match, only to repeat the cycle all over again. It’s just difficult to keep someone of his caliber away from the title picture for that long. Since joining AEW, the longest he has gone without having a World Title match is eight-and-a-half months. I guess we’d just have to wait and see.
If CM Punk returns to AEW (and it sounds like that’s a sure thing in June) and stays with AEW (that remains to be seen), you have to think he’ll have a major role at Double Or Nothing 2024. This actually ties in with the last paragraph… what about CM Punk vs Bryan Danielson in the main event spot? Lord knows there’s plenty of history that can be talked about in a build for that match, both in promos and from people like Excalibur on commentary. It’s about as big a match, especially for a first-time (in AEW) contest, that the company can deliver right now. It’s also fresh. Let’s say we make it all the way to Double Or Nothing 2024 without seeing a Punk vs Danielson match. That would be nearly 12 years since the last time they had a singles match against each other (WWE Money In The Bank 2012), and that was an entirely different Bryan Danielson/Daniel Bryan at the time. It was three months after Bryan lost the World Heavyweight Title to Sheamus in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28, and two months before Bryan and Kane would attend anger management classes together and go on to form Team Hell No. Punk vs Danielson at Double Or Nothing could be some amazing storytelling. It wouldn’t even matter who the face and the heel is, although you might get more mileage out of a heel Punk defending the AEW World Title against a face Danielson.
If Tony Khan is going to refer to Double Or Nothing as AEW’s biggest event of the year, he needs to treat it as such. Take your biggest stars and place them in important spots. Use the star power on the roster and take advantage of it. If you’re going to make an attempt to elevate “new” names to marquee spots, it needs to be a lot more organic than what we’re getting with this year’s Double Or Nothing World Title picture. Would the show take a bit of a hit if any combination of Omega, Page, and the Bucks are no longer with AEW? Of course, but that’s how it has always been in wrestling. Wrestlers leave and wrestlers get injured, and companies always find a way to move forward. It happened when Cody left AEW, and it would happen if anyone else left. I’m not saying I want anyone to leave, nor am I saying I want anyone to stay. Not only is it a case-by-case situation, it’s also about the companies themselves. For example, when Kenny Omega’s contract is coming to an end, what is AEW doing at the time and what is WWE doing at the time? Based on the answers to those questions, maybe it would be best for Omega to head to WWE, but those same answers might also mean it would be best for the Bucks to remain in AEW. I just like to have fun and talk about the AEW guys jumping ship because their contract status is usually reported and we know when the clock is ticking.
Your turn. I want you to look ahead to the 2024 WWE Hall Of Fame ceremony, WrestleMania 40, and Double Or Nothing 2024. Tell me what you want to see happen, or tell me what you think will happen. As always, you can hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn vs The Usos: A rematch of a WrestleMania main event is big enough. This story still being hot made this one even bigger. On top of that, there was a ton of speculation that we would be getting a title change since the champions probably won’t be going to Saudi Arabia for Night Of Champions. Everything added up to make a pay-per-view quality match with all four men busting their asses.
Cody Rhodes vs Finn Balor: Cody has become WWE’s biggest, and most dependable, face. The company knows what they’re getting when he goes out to cut a promo or wrestle anyone on the roster. He’s in a great place, even though some people are still very bitter about the fact that he isn’t the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion right now.
Carmelo Hayes vs Grayson Waller: Two of the brightest young talents under the WWE umbrella facing off for the biggest prize in NXT. This could’ve been the main event of any NXT pay-per-view for the next few years. Lots of fun, super athletic stuff here.
Orange Cassidy vs Bandido: The streak continues. Orange Cassidy has another successful defense of whatever they’re calling his title this month, and the match was yet another banger. He might be the most underrated performer in the business right now, with people focusing on his character and unfairly pigeonholing him as nothing more than a comedy act. None of it is doing anything for his title, though, and that’s a shame. It’s just “Orange vs Random Wrestler” every week, usually with no build or explanation whatsoever. With everything he’s putting in, the title should easily be viewed as AEW’s version of the Intercontinental or United States Title, but it’s not.
WWE’s New World Heavyweight Title: Some of you love the idea, some of you hate the idea, and some of you are simply waiting to see who is crowned the first champion before you make any decisions. No matter what, though, it has everyone talking, and for now, that’s a win for WWE.
AJ Styles: After spending the last four months on the sidelines with a broken ankle, he made his return to the company, and that’s enough for him to make this list. The fact that he (alongside the rest of The O.C.) was drafted to Smackdown makes it even better. As I wrote in my pre-Draft column, Styles was an easy choice for Smackdown, where he will make for a great opponent in a long line of them for Roman Reigns.
Imperium: Now, let’s go in the other direction. Getting Imperium to Raw means that Gunther can be kept away from Roman Reigns for a while. I would love to see them face each other, but that’s a WrestleMania-worthy match. If they stayed on Smackdown together, it would become more and more difficult to keep them away from each other. It would be a shame to see Roman vs Gunther take place at some random show like Extreme Rules or something along those lines. Now, you can have Gunther win the Royal Rumble, as an example, to set the match up on the biggest stage possible, if that’s the direction things need to go in.
Legado Del Fantasma vs The Usos & Solo Sikoa: The LWO remains very popular, and according to rumors, they have been the best merchandise sellers in the company over the last few weeks. Now, they just need to start winning some matches. Wilde and Del Toro haven’t won a match in over three months, long before the LWO was brought back. It has been even longer since Santos Escobar has won a televised match, going back four months. Something’s gotta give.
Bobby Lashley: He goes to Smackdown where he presents himself as yet another major obstacle for Roman Reigns. Roman and Bobby haven’t shared the ring together since they were in a Triple Threat (with Big E) on Raw back in September 2021. The last time they squared off in singles competition was on an episode of Raw in July 2018. It’s a fresh matchup, and Lashley is always presented as being big enough, strong enough, and dangerous enough to defeat anybody at any time.
The Owen Hart Cup: On one hand, I’m glad to see the return of The Owen Hart Cup, because AEW treats the tournaments like a big deal, and the wrestlers do the same. However, on the other hand, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. I would like to see some honest-to-goodness stakes on the line, and not just have the winners receive a decorative title belt and their names on a trophy. World Title shots, something… anything… would be appreciated. Having the finals take place in Owen’s hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada on July 15th is a start. Now, let’s sweeten the pot a little.
Oba Femi: What a debut! I’m not going to sit here and proclaim him to be a future World Champion like some of you have done. Not yet. I need to see more than just one match for that. What I will say is that I was impressed by everything I saw in his match with Oro Mensah. He looks like a million bucks, shows a great power game, sold well for Mensah’s offense, showed some in-ring charisma, and has a great-looking finisher that he can probably hit on just about anyone he faces. Color me interested in his career moving forward.
Roderick Strong: Do you realize how rare a situation like this is in this day and age? Roddy Strong was under WWE contract and was simply on the shelf while he dealt with his on-screen attack at the hands of Damon Kemp. Outside of him requesting his release over a year ago (which was rejected), nobody was reporting any issues with his WWE contract status. Not Fightful, not the Wrestling Observer, not PWTorch, not PWInsider, not any of the several Twitter accounts with inside sources that break news from time-to-time… nobody. Then, he just shows up on Dynamite to save his former stablemate, Adam Cole, from a beatdown, and everyone loses their minds. Apparently, he hadn’t been under WWE contract since NOVEMBER. This is real Attitude Era shit, where wrestlers would jump ship from WCW to the WWF, or vice versa, with no advanced warning whatsoever. It’s refreshing to have something like that happen now. Congratulations to Roddy, too, as he gets to work with his friends and his wife (Marina Shafir) once again.
Trinity: After spending the last year away from the business, the artist-formerly-known-as-Naomi made her debut for Impact Wrestling at their recent set of television tapings. That’s a good spot for her. There are some fun matches for her to have in Impact, and it can be used as the gateway to something bigger down the road, whether that’s an AEW run, a return to WWE, a trip to Japan like Mercedes Moné, or something else.
Darby Allin vs Sammy Guevara: While the match itself was good, the entire build for Double Or Nothing has been unnecessarily convoluted and downright dumb. When the “Four Pillars” match was first teased, it was clear that the company wanted to do a Four-Way match. That made sense. No reason to bring all four men into the same story otherwise. Then they tried to “fool” everyone by creating some weird tournament that would crown the next challenger for MJF’s World Title, but nobody was buying it. Then, of course we get some shenaniganery all throughout said tournament, which is going to end up giving us the Four-Way we already knew we were getting. It’s like having a 1000-word essay for school, but only having 700 words of actual content, so you have to stretch things out and bullshit your way to the 1000-word mark.
Indi Hartwell vs Tiffany Stratton vs Roxanne Perez: The match probably would’ve been rated a little higher, but things nearly fell off the rails after Indi’s injury. I’m really surprised that an audible wasn’t called, but as it is, Indi retained the NXT Women’s Title and is now in a walking boot, as seen on Smackdown, when she was drafted to Raw. That’s another odd decision, considering the injury circumstances, but we’ll have to see how much time she needs to miss, if any. As of now, she will be back on the same show as the love of her life, Dexter Lumis, and her storyline “mom,” Candice LeRae. By the time many of you read these words, we will find out if her storyline “dad,” Johnny Gargano, will join them for a full-fledged reunion of The Way.
Tony D’Angelo & Stacks vs Pretty Deadly: Entertaining brawl that probably signaled the end of Pretty Deadly’s time in NXT. For months, we’ve seen rumors that they could be called up soon, and now, we have the Draft to deal with. If this is it for them, they really overachieved while they were there. I don’t know that many North American fans expected much out of the team in NXT, simply based on the way they look, but like Orange Cassidy, they proved that they can have strong character work and lots of comedy while still being able to “go” in the ring.
Shinsuke Nakamura: Using his old entrance music again, and after taking some time off, Nakamura seems refreshed and recharged. Being drafted to Raw should, hopefully, continue that trend. Should WWE decide to do it, he can be one of the top contenders for the World Heavyweight Title, both now and down the road.
Butch vs LA Knight: Knight rarely gets to win on television, so this was a big deal. Will it lead to anything? Who knows? It’s a start, though, and that’s what we’ll run with. He’s still really over with live crowds, so maybe we’ll see some more success come his way.
Rey Mysterio vs Damian Priest: Yes, it was only by disqualification, but it was still a win for Rey. At least someone in the LWO gets to win matches. That Rey sure is selfish. Maybe Prison Dom was right.
Jade Cargill vs Taya Valkyrie: AEW is letting Jade wrestler longer matches, and that’s a good thing. She is still building confidence in the ring, and even though this match was fun, it just seemed like it was being used to build for a rematch without the weird finishing move stipulation. For now, those who are waiting for Kris Statlander to dethrone Cargill continue to keep their dreams alive for another week.
This Week’s Playlist: “100 Miles An Hour” by Labrinth… “Ambitious” by Jack Harlow… “Just Like You” by Slum Village, Larry June & The Dramatics… “The Tide” by Smash Into Pieces… “Bite Your Tongue” by Attila… “Obey” by Throw The Fight… “The World Without Us” by Enterprise Earth… “The Level Beneath” by Crown Magnetar… “Adrift, Beneath The Listless Waves” by Fires In The Distance… “Hustle Blood” by Big Boi & Jamie Foxx… “Hard White (Up In The Club) (Remix)” by Yelawolf, Lil Jon, T.I. & Slaughterhouse… “Fantastic 4” by DJ Clue, Big Pun, Cam’ron, N.O.R.E. & Canibus… “There They Go” by Obie Trice, Eminem, Big Herc & Trick Trick… “When I Come Around” by Green Day… “Hunger Strike” by Temple Of The Dog… “Made Of Scars” by Stone Sour… “Zzyzx Rd” by Stone Sour… “Mission Statement” by Stone Sour… “Say You’ll Haunt Me” by Stone Sour… “Imperfect” by Stone Sour… “Taciturn” by Stone Sour… “Black” by Sevendust… “Denial” by Sevendust… “Praise” by Sevendust… “Cold” by Static-X