If a man predicts the end of the world in 2012, he’s considered crazy and mercilessly ridiculed like the attention-seeking charlatan that he is. But what separates him from the loon who predicted that Bryan Danielson would one day be a world champion in the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, who foresaw a world with John Laurinitus as the number one heel on television, and who laid forth the peculiar notion that Michael Cole might one day suck at his job? Who would ever dare be so brave to put his reputation on the line with such prophecies?
For all the fools who think they know the score, there’s always one genius who rises through the pack and calls things before they occur. To that end, the ladies and gentlemen of Cult of Whatever have gotten together to throw their foolish guesses into the hat in the hope that one will come out of 2012 with credibility and reverence as the Nostradamus of the squared circle. On the off chance that every prediction is correct, we will accept our rightful place as your lords and personal saviours. More than likely, just be prepared to laugh at our stupidity.
• Dolph Ziggler: The Breakout Man.
It really is simple. There’s no doubt. It’s as plain as the nose on Triple H’s face – the next big breakout star in waiting for 2012, is Dolph Ziggler. Look at the facts:
He makes anyone in the ring with him look like a million dollars: OK, in Vince’s grand “Sports Entertainment” scheme of things, that doesn’t mean a whole hill of beans. But, to old schoolers like me, and a lot of the Internet Wrestling Community (if that much fabled beast even exists any more) it matters. And Dolph is good; scarily good.
He is paired with Vickie Guerrero, a fine example of a modern manager: She’s a heat magnet. And when he eventually turns face? She’s a walking target, and everyone and his dog will get behind him. It is wrestling 101 – build a big bad heel, turn him face against an equally big bad heel. Simple.
He can cut promos, and he carries himself like a star already: It’s true, he’s improved leaps and bounds on the mic in the past 12 months, and keeps on getting better and better. The sky is the limit for this guy, and he has a ready-made Rock/Austin style foil on the mic in the inimitable Zack Ryder.
He’s believable in the main event: He’s got a title shot against CM Punk already. He didn’t look out of place at any time during his brief main event run, and that’s half the battle. He can work with the already established top tier, so there’s no awkward bedding in period.
He’s paid his dues already: Spirit Squad, anybody? Mr. Ziggles? Booker’s constant attempts to get “awwww yeah it’s the Zig Zag Man” over as a catchphrase? He’s survived it all and come out smiling. He may not be as much of a company man as John Cena, but he’s damn sure earned some brownie points with The Powers That Be along the way.
To put it short, his time is coming. Ziggler’s star is on the rise. He WILL be the breakout star of 2012, by hook or by crook. Look for him to shine in the Royal Rumble – either a win, or the much fabled Diesel push off the back of a stellar showing.
Would it surprise me if he was in the title picture at WrestleMania, either as champion or as challenger? Hell no. And it shouldn’t surprise you, either.
2012 is the year of Ziggler.
• The WrestleMania main-event belongs to… John Cena.
Whatever the outcome of this match, one would be very surprised not to see it be hailed as a classic. We know The Rock still has fantastic ability in the ring even after being away from it for so long and nobody can deny Cena’s ability to deliver in huge main events. I expect lots of twists and turns, some epic near-falls and a seriously pumped up audience. I’m hoping to be there in person, all being well financially. I can’t wait to see it either way as I’m a huge fan of The Rock but I also have a ton of admiration and respect for the work ethic of Cena.
But who should get the win on the big night?
I think it absolutely should be Cena. I believe it not only needs to be Cena, but that it actually will be Cena getting his hand raised.
I’m as avid a supporter of The Rock as anybody, but to give him the victory here after making Cena look like something of a bitch on two of WWE’s biggest dates last year could do irreparable damage to his character. Rock may be associated with WWE again, but he won’t be there full time. Cena needs to get the rub. The match should be to publicise WWE as best they can, not The Rock specifically. Cena winning does just that and it actually serves as something a passing of the torch in that regard (even though Cena has actually been main eventing longer than Rock in his full-time spell).
Also if you look at Rock’s track record, he’s one of the most selfless main eventers that the business has ever seen. Putting over people in the past hasn’t hurt him one jot. Putting over Cena at Wrestlemania won’t harm him in the slightest. If anything it means the story will continue, Rock vowing to avenge his loss at a future PPV such as Summerslam or something along those lines. It makes better business sense for Cena to go over, at least initially.
Rock winning would absolutely make for a feel good moment, but Cena will forever be in his shadow if this happens. Some would argue he always will be in his shadow whatever the outcome, but they at least need to try and keep up his momentum. Who’s going to care when John Cena wins his next WWE title against a CM Punk or an Alberto Del Rio when everyone knows he couldn’t compare to The Rock on his big night?
Win or lose, Rock will guarantee some revenue for WWE as long as he is still associated with it. Cena will still draw even if he loses, but I’d still predict a slump in this regard compared to if he actually gets the win and the sheer exposure that would come with it. A victory for Rock doesn’t really do anything for Cena. A win for Cena will do a lot for him and Rock will still get plaudits for putting on a brilliant performance.
• The WrestleMania main event belongs to… The Rock.
There’s an unwritten rule in pro wrestling that the man on his way out puts over the man next in line to carry the torch. When The Rock left the full time circuit in 2002, he laid down for Brock Lesnar and bowed out gracefully. In 2012, you’d expect him to do the same for John Cena.
The problem with our Wrestlemania main event is that general wrestling logic does not apply so easily. Whilst Lesnar was being groomed as the next big thing, Cena has been the top dog for just under seven years. There is no torch to pass to him that has not already been bestowed by default of his success and tenure thus far.
You could argue that Cena is still the face of the company and will be the number one guy long after Dwayne Johnson returns to Hollywood. In the long term, this is all true. What worries me, and most certainly worries the creative team in WWE, is that the main event of the biggest wrestling show potentially in history is The Rock, in his home state, in his first singles match in nine years, in front of the most hardcore, lifelong WWE fans from all over the world, facing notoriously ill-received babyface John Cena. For this reason, John Cena cannot win the match. There can only be one winner on this night.
Picture the scene: nearly 70,000 fans jampacked in Miami as the dream match of dream matches is in full swing. The crowd is 100% behind The Rock, cheering every spot and nostalgic reminder of the glory days of the Attitude era whilst simultaneously booing the modern day champion out of the stadium with every breath that leaves his body. Suddenly, Cena reverses a Rock Bottom, picks up Johnson and Attitude Adjusts him to the centre of the ring for the pinfall victory. At what point do you think the crowd reaction to what they’ve just seen will justify going that route with the booking? The last thing Wrestlemania needs is a full-scale riot.
If you are a believer, like I am, in the art of symbolism, cast your mind back to 2001 when Stone Cold Steve Austin shook hands with Vince McMahon at the conclusion of the show and, within the space of 30 seconds, destroyed his own drawing power and kickstarted the downturn in WWE business. Vince McMahon would be wise to remember that moment, for the image of John Cena with his arm raised at Wrestlemania 28 may be the one we replay ten years from now as the moment WWE lost everything. It’s a stretch to suggest it will end the company once and for all, but the potential long-term damage could be irreparable, something WWE cannot risk in 2012.
In my head, the match goes one way and one way only – The Rock defeats John Cena clean in the middle of the ring (for the WWE championship, no less) and paves the way for a John Cena heel turn, which culminates in a rematch at Summerslam. The title doesn’t need to be defended every month; in fact, it would benefit the prestige of the belt if it – and it’s owner – were saved for rare, special occasions. As the Cena heel turn reaches its peak, the stage would be set for the rematch, where Cena would be able to finally get the win and the title back. At this point, not only would Rocky be gone for good, but six months would have been long enough to build a host of new babyface challengers for Cena to face in his new bad guy capacity. I’m putting a lot of faith in the promotion to do this, but the alternative isn’t an option. For the good of the company, The Rock has to win at Wrestlemania.
• On the brink of disaster… it could only be TNA.
Looking at TNA these days it’s hard to make any kind of prediction because it seems that week to week the booking team have to spend half their time deciphering the difference between their arses and their elbows. Who would have predicted Bobby Roode to be world champ? Well, everyone except the bookers who decided it was much better to put the belt on James Storm for a couple of weeks first. Who could have predicted that both Jeff and Karen Jarrett would be of the shows at the start of 2012 bar the millions of people praying for it every week?
What you can predict is that Jeff Hardy is going to go right back to the top of the card despite being arrested with a family sized pharmaceutical store in his garage. Wouldn’t you love to be working in a place where you could flagrantly break the law and ten wander back in 3 months later and receive a promotion? Not only that but on your last day of work before the rozzers turned up to feel your collar you turned up to work so off your face you could barely stand.
Welcome to TNA which as far as I can see now stands for “Take No Action” because everyone is so terribly paranoid about losing all these stars who they’ve paid so much money for. The heart of the problem is that with no ability to lure talent away from the WWE TNA have settled on paying big bucks to has beens or disgruntled talent unhappy with the pay to work ratio or that they routinely get pulled up for “wellness violations”.
So what has all that got to do with predictions? Well, my prediction is that TNA will be the first wrestling company to appear all across the mainstream media for the state of one of their talents.
That’s a little vague however so let’s try and narrow it down to two possibilities. The first is that Kurt Angle will injure himself horrifically on a show, probably a PPV if we’re honest. Each time Angle goes off with an increasingly major injury he comes back and goes on a crusade to force himself back to the top of the pile. Invariably this results in him throwing himself off the top of something tall and failing to actually land on or indeed anywhere near his opponent.
If TNA had any sense or indeed had anyone willing to deal with their roster then someone would step in and tell Kurt that he’s actually too valuable to keep doing this stuff. They’d give him the time to properly heal and actually give him the assurances he needs that his spot is untouchable (which in reality it is anyway). Since they won’t then in the desperate chase to “compete” with the WWE machine Angle will simply take it one step too far and this time he won’t walk away with a highlight for the starting credits of Impact.
The other bet is that one of the Hardy’s is going to embarrass TNA so hugely that it will end their career and potentially put TNA out of the game. If it’s Matt then it’s going to be yet another ridiculous stunt to try and generate some heat for himself. He’ll end up shooting himself or someone else simply for a youtube video. That or he’ll tweet something so utterly horrific no one will touch him with a barge pole.
If the elder Hardy manages to keep below the radar then young Jeffery will certainly step up to the plate. If he’s not appeared on a live show out of his face again then he’s going to have fallen fowl of the law and he’s not going to keep managing to get away with it anymore. The simple reason for all of these being decent shouts is that you know TNA will do nothing to prevent them happening and ultimately that could cost them more than simply someone from their roster.
• Old faces spark new resurgence of Divas division.
2012 is looking to me to be quite a good year for the Divas, especially if, as I predict, we see the return to action of two lovely ladies: Layla, and Kharma.
Layla was the best worker of the Divas when she was unfortunately injured in May 2011, and the loss of her, Michelle McCool and Kharma in a matter of weeks left a gaping hole in the Divas’ stocks. Hopefully to be somewhat assuaged when Layla returns to action as expected in the near future. The woman is a masterful performer and can really add some strength to the ‘top’ of the Divas cards, so to speak. She can come back to her old spot as a great bumping heel, or try a real babyface run, something she hasn’t really done before, and have some titles matches with Beth Phoenix. Either way, the women’s roster looks a whole lot better with Layla back, and I will be glad as hell to get my favourite wrestler back in the ring.
Part of me realises that in relation to Kharma this is a hopeful wish rather than an expected Prediction, because there’s every chance that she doesn’t come back to wrestling (at least not in 2012). In fact I don’t know off-hand of any major US female wrestler who had a baby and returned to the big leagues. But if she does, and fingers crossed, ‘women’s business’ is about to seriously pick up again.
Her short run in 2011 was so awesome, brought a whole new dynamic to the Divas Division, and, most importantly to WWE, actually made people take notice and tune in, so I can only imagine that if she’s ready to return she is going to pick up right where she left off: killing and eating b*tches. But also, her farewell shoot promo left her a babyface on her way out, so there’s some intrigue as to what side she would take, if any, and the fact that since Kharma left they have put Natalya and Beth Phoenix in such a prominent spot only makes her eventual showdowns with these two all the more tantalising. Not to mention, of course, the prospect of her destroying any girl she sees all over again.
There is so much to do with Kharma, even moreso now than before, so my Prediction is that if she does return in 2012 it will ignite the women’s division in a way it hasn’t been since 2006.
The WWE Network will be better than people are giving credit for.
As a wrestling fan you should already have April 1st 2012 marked down in your diary (and if you don’t know why, then you sir are not a wrestling fan). But rejoice (Americans) for April 1st also marks the beginning of perhaps the boldest move the WWE has ever attempted (let’s forget all about that XFL jazz, okay?). April 1st marks the launch of the new WWE Network TV Channel for all our friends stateside, and I for one am excited about it.
Think about it, a channel dedicated to WWE Programming and raiding the WWE’s extensive archives. What’s not to love? Not only do us old folks who were around first time round get to rewatch some of our favourite moments, it also offers a relatively inexpensive method for newer fans to catch up on what they’ve missed out on. You folks out there with PVRs should be rubbing your hands together in glee right now.
But other than old shows, what is actually going to be shown on “The Network”? As well as shows such as NXT and Superstars “returning” to TV, WWE have promised a raft of original programming, the first announced of which is The Legends House, a reality based show in which some of the WWE’s Hall of Famers are being brought together in the same house “Real World” style. Hall of Famers that are rumoured to include the Iron Sheik. I’ll say that again, WWE are doing a reality based show that may very well include the Iron Sheik. It’s either gonna be the best thing ever, or the most horrific car crash television you ever did see. Either way it should be pretty damn entertaining though!
As well as the Legends House and the promise of other first run television (rumours abound of a cookery show featuring Big Show ad his wife), what also excites me about the Network is their promise to move all “B” PPVs (anything other than the big 4) off Pay Per View providers and onto the Network. Everyone immediately thinks that this is going to be a bad move for WWE, but in reality it’s going to be a great move for fans. From launch, the WWE Network is going to be available to somewhere in the region of 40 million cable customers. Already waaaaaaay more folks than are willing to shell out $50 each month to watch frankly substandard PPVs. With rumours that the Network is only going to cost around $15 a month, and the fact that you get access to EVERYTHING not just the PPVs, I think this could be the best move WWE could have made. If they could pull together some pay plan that gives you access to the Network on your TV as well as WWE on Demand via the internet, they could well be laughing all the way to the bank.
Even though the Network means that fans will be able to get more programming than ever, and for a good deal cheaper than buying one PPV a month, what interests me the most is the decision to keep the Big 4 on PPV. This means that we seem to have almost gone full circle, with the Rumble, Mania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series going back to being the most important shows, with the B PPVs filling the same kind of slot as a Saturday Night’s Main Event or something along those lines.
This means that Vinnie Mac and the clan are going to have to pull out the stops to actually make these big 4 worth shelling out the dosh on, and anything that pushes the WWE in the direction of actually having to put on a good show and not just rest on their laurels is something I’m all for. I could get proven totally wrong and end up with egg on my face, but I honestly think the WWE Network could be a great thing for the fans, the company, and the guys who don’t get a chance on TV right now.
• Here comes the Pain – Brock Lesnar returns
On March 14th 2004, Bill Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar in New York City, at Wrestlemania XX. After the match, Brock Lesnar retired from professional wrestling, starting a firestorm of rumours regarding his future. American football, martial arts, puro-wrestling; if it involved hitting people, there was a rumour that Lesnar was planning to do it. As things turned out, Lesnar ended up doing all those things, finally finding contentment in the World’s biggest mixed martial arts organisation, the UFC.
On December 30th 2011, Alistair Overeem defeated Brock Lesnar in Las Vegas at UFC 141. After the match, Brock Lesnar retired from mixed martial arts. The rumours returned, but this time, only one career path really seems possible.
Right now, it’s strictly nothing but a rumour, but, in my book anyway, it’s a pretty convincing one. Lesnar’s relationship with professional wrestling, whilst originally being somewhat strained has been healing over the past few years. It started with spirited defences in interviews of the athleticism of sports-entertainment against criticism from the MMA community for it’s “fake” elements. That relationship took another step up earlier this year when Lesnar signed an agreement that allowed him to appear in the WWE’s latest video game, WWE 12. Those certainly aren’t the actions of someone who’s trying to distance himself from the industry.
Too old for football at the age of 34, too well paid for any non-UFC MMA companies and with Japanese pro-wrestling seemingly dead in the water, the areas where Lesnar spent his time between the WWE and the UFC seem less appealing in 2012 than they did in 2004. Lesnar has no experience in film, T.V. or any of the other professions that MMA and pro-wrestling stars tend to retire in to. If Lesnar wants to remain a multi-millionaire, the WWE is the clear option. That said, Lesnar has always lived something of a Spartan lifestyle, spent between his mountain home in the American Rockies and a self-run farm in Canada, so it’s possible that he might simply be done with the high-life altogether. That’s a big if though. Working on a farm and living up a mountain is one thing, but, when you’re the highest paid man in mixed martial arts (he made over $5million from fights alone in 2010), it’s little more than a hobby. That’s a very different story to working on that same Canadian farm as an actual job, and without the WWE or a serious career change, that’s the future Brock’s facing and, with a young family to raise, it’s one I don’t imagine him taking.
If Lesnar is headed back to the WWE, he already has one obvious opponent. At Lesnar’s previous fight, at UFC 121, in California, after losing his heavyweight title, Brock was leaving the ring when he was approached by none other than WWE legend The Undertaker. As Lesnar walked out of the cage, head hung in defeat, The Undertaker leant over the rail and simply stated, “You wanna do it?”
If Lesnar is coming “home” to the WWE, surely there’s no better match than one involving one of the few surviving legends of pro-wrestling’s last glory-era, especially when the bad blood between the two has already been publicised, not only by the WWE, but in the “legitimate” sports media. Surely even modern day WWE couldn’t fail to hype a fight with that sort of build behind it.
He’s already trained, he has experience, he’s world famous and he’s already got a main event feud ready and waiting for him. It’s certainly looking like, at some point, in 2012, we could well be welcoming back the pain.