WWE Monday Night Raw: 10 Storylines Fans Need to See in 2013
With 2013 fast approaching, there are several fond memories that most WWE fans will take away from a fairly memorable 2012.
From WWE WrestleMania 28, Brock Lesnar's return, Raw 1000 and CM Punk's year-long title reign, we have witnessed enough to keep our insatiable pro wrestling appetites satisfied for at least another 12 months
Throughout this slideshow, I'll analyse the potential storylines and rivalries that will hopefully come to fruition in the new year and make for exciting television. Suffice to say that fans of The Great Khali and Hornswoggle, you can stop reading now.
While WWE Monday Night Raw and WWE SmackDown are theoretically still promoted as separate shows these days, the whimsical way superstars appear on each show, regardless of their draft status, means that rivalries can develop and continue all over the place.
In spite of the complete lack of focus regarding characters' commitments to their own shows, I'll be focusing solely on the superstars "contracted" to Raw in this slideshow, at least according to the folks at WWE.com anyway.
I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts, and if there's anything you think I should have included, I'll be happy to hear about it in the comments section.
Ric Flair Appointed as General Manager
When Ric Flair returned to Raw on December 17, there was an air of serenity surrounding the WWE Universe, and his physical confrontations with CM Punk and The Shield made for one of the best all-around segments of the year.
Flair has not signed a new contract with WWE, but the presence of the "Nature Boy" on a weekly basis would inevitably make for electric television.
WWE's insistence on shoving authority figures down our throats and into storylines that do not concern them has become a tedious weekly occurrence we have become forced to accept.
Vickie Guerrero and Booker T receive more air time than numerous wasted talents, and if this formula is to continue, the company needs to at least bring in a vibrant, dynamic and entertaining individual to fill this role.
On the microphone, few can surpass Flair, and his charisma, energy and experience could make a crucial contribution to WWE storylines in 2013.
While nobody wants to see him wrestle and renege on his 2008 retirement match stipulation with Shawn Michaels (while we all try and erase his wrestling exploits in TNA from our minds), his interactions with top heels such as Punk, Big Show et al would surely be brilliant.
Appoint Flair as Raw general manager, with maybe JBL or Mick Foley taking over the SmackDown position, and one of many emergency surgeries WWE needs to perform instantly will be achieved.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Daniel Bryan
After a haphazard 2012 for Dolph Ziggler that has seen him compete in WWE and World championship matches, job to Brodus Clay and win Money in the Bank, the "Show Off" appears in pole position to emerge as a valued asset to WWE in 2013.
Having stolen AJ Lee from John Cena and hiring Big E. Langston as what appears to be his bodyguard, Ziggler finally has the stable WWE seems to feel he needs to run with the World Heavyweight Championship.
Ziggler will surely become champion in 2013, and while his feuds for the World title will largely develop on SmackDown, WWE's insistence on featuring the World title on Raw suggests that his rivalries will also take centre stage on the company's flagship show.
A feud with Daniel Bryan is what many fans have been clamouring for in the near future, and with both men technically classed as Raw superstars on WWE.com, this feud could quite feasibly begin on a Monday night.
Alongside Ziggler, Bryan is amongst the elite performers in the ring in WWE, and although the two have only clashed intermittently throughout the careers, the promise of a feud between the duo is enough to make any pro wrestling purist salivate.
Fans for now can only speculate as to just how great their matches will be, but should they happen, they will likely be instant classics.
The Miz vs. CM Punk
While the lie detector test on Raw during the December 3 edition wasn't everyone's cup of tea, the chemistry between The Miz and CM Punk at least held the segment together and hopefully offered a taste of things to come in 2013.
Unfortunately for Miz, his imminent future will be spent endearing himself to the WWE Universe, and while his timing is excellent during promos, the jokes he may make may alienate a few older fans along the way.
Much like John Cena, Miz is not renowned for his technical prowess inside the ring, but he has been unfairly criticised from certain quarters during his career for not being able to put on a good match.
That is plain wrong, and as proven with matches against Punk in the latter stages of 2011 and early 2012, the two blend extremely well. Even if this feud isn't for the WWE title, it would still be incredibly entertaining.
Aside from Cena, Punk and Miz are arguably the best two full-time talkers in WWE, and should this feud become heated, the verbal exchanges would be must-see television (horrible pun intended).
Miz's career should hopefully get back on track during 2013 after a painfully stagnant 2012, and this could end up being one of the standout feuds of the year.
Triple H Turns Heel
Vince McMahon was brought to tears in July 2011 when Triple H told him he was being relieved of his duties as WWE COO.
Fast forward a year, and McMahon is back in charge, engaging in horribly pointless segments where he bullies Vickie Guerrero into making the matches he wants.
Aside from WWE's impressive lack of continuity, it is clear that Triple H is the next highest power figure on WWE programming, and with both of them playing babyface roles, that authoritative heel is missing that can feud with developing babyfaces.
Guerrero has been wasted as Raw's managing supervisor, engaging in the horrific "AJ scandal," and hopefully in 2013, she'll be back to actually managing superstars.
Triple H is arguably one of WWE's greatest ever heels, and by setting the wheels in motion for him to become the next on-screen McMahon, the company can have the "King of Kings" develop grudges with babyfaces as current heels fight his battles for him.
While I believe Ric Flair should become the next general manager of Raw, it need not be until later in the year that Triple H makes the turn, although should the two events occur simultaneously we could be treated to some thrilling conflict between Flair and "The Game."
Regardless, Vince's time in the television spotlight has become far more sporadic over the years, and the need for an effective, compelling heel figure (not John Laurinaitis) is paramount, and who better than one of the most antagonising superstars in WWE history?
John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose has begun life on the main WWE roster in magnificent form, playing a key role in the most interesting stable the company has produced since The Nexus.
Fortunately, WWE has been extremely smart in regards to booking The Shield, with Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns all looking like future main-eventers so early into their careers.
They are the most exciting element of WWE programming currently, and while we will all be loathed to see them split, that moment will inevitably happen, and once it does, Ambrose is going to take WWE by storm.
His promos have a unique, unstable feel to them in the vein of Mick Foley or Brian Pillman, and he promises to be a presence amongst the top heels for years to come.
I will touch upon this later in the slideshow, but regarding the man I believe he should feud with, John Cena, this rivalry could potentially see Cena taken down numerous pegs, something that absolutely must happen in 2013.
Cena has no equal, and while superstars have gone over him indecisively at various times over the last few years, a new star needs to step up and prove that the future can be bright without everyone's favourite marketing machine.
Ambrose's brawling would contrast delightfully with Cena's, and putting Ambrose over on Cena could make for one of the most memorable rivalries of the year.
CM Punk and Paul Heyman Build a Stable
WWE champion CM Punk's alignment with Paul Heyman has felt underwhelming since their initial pairing together in the summer of 2012.
While both men are in the highest echelons of pro wrestling talkers, the memorable moments the two have shared together have been few and far between, aside from mocking Jerry "The King" Lawler's heart attack in the winter, of course.
Hopefully, the return of The Rock and the healing of Punk's injury will result in some confrontations for the ages in 2013, but if Punk is to remain champion until WrestleMania 29, there needs to be an extra dynamic added into the fold.
While it's fairly safe to say The Shield will cross paths with Rock in the new year, the time for them to confess that either Punk or Heyman is their master seems to have passed.
It would have little impact now if the former NXT trio aligned with Punk as his lackeys, and they are performing remarkably well in their current role anyway.
One man whose arrival would change everything is Brock Lesnar. By forming a modern-day Two-Man Power Trip, Lesnar's addition into the fold would make them a formidable threesome in a vein similar to Evolution or D-Generation-X, where each man would still have their separate rivalries.
Lesnar would return, claiming he does not want the WWE title, but only to kick some bum, and by introducing a superstar(s) doing very little at the moment, such as Zack Ryder, The Usos or R-Truth, you have one heck of a dominant heel stable in the making.
Brock Lesnar vs. Ryback
While Brock Lesnar's future in WWE remains uncertain following WWE WrestleMania 29, should the former WWE champion stick around, there is one man he almost certainly needs to collide with.
With honesty, the prevalent theme is this sentence. Not even WWE champion CM Punk has produced a challenge to Ryback on WWE screens yet.
The company seems hell-bent on forcing the WWE Universe to embrace him, and while his beatings at the hands of The Shield have somewhat humanised him, there appear to be very few stars left that could actually give Ryback a challenge in a one-on-one match.
One man that certainly could, though, is Lesnar. The enigmatic former UFC star fought two matches in 2012 and dominated both against John Cena and Triple H, respectively.
I would love to see this feud just to witness how WWE would book a match between the two. Debating which superstar would be given the upper hand during the rivalry and who will eventually come out on top would surely give WWE creative nightmares.
Lesnar is an unknown variable in WWE right, and one has to speculate that he will unlikely let Ryback go over on him, whereas on the other side of the coin, the company wouldn't want their next big star to be ironically fed to a part-time wrestler, providing Lesnar signs a similar deal next year.
There is talk that this feud could begin in 2013 and conclude at WrestleMania 29, and while WWE fans would be treated to a memorable encounter in itself, knowing how greatly WWE creative will have struggled to book this match is also a lovely piece of knowledge we could take away from the rivalry.
The Mastermind Behind the Shield Is Revealed
As far as debuts go, few have been as impressive in such a short space of time as that of Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, collectively known as The Shield.
The trio have torn through numerous superstars since their emergence at WWE Survivor Series 2012 and have categorically denied that they are working for anyone other than themselves.
As I touched upon earlier in the slideshow, it appears that the time has passed for The Shield to claim that either CM Punk or Paul Heyman is their boss, but that doesn't mean there isn't scope for an eventual mastermind behind the trio to emerge.
Some may argue that the trio do not need a greater power controlling their every move. Such is their wonderful run right now, and to an extent, I can thoroughly accept that point.
However, from the viewpoint of creating drama, a mastermind being revealed, providing it was a shocking, logical and exciting option, would make for compelling watching as that storyline progressed.
Booking The Shield for WrestleMania 29 is tricky business right now, and one option could see their involvement coming during the match of their boss, be it someone like a heel Triple H, Brock Lesnar or an authority figure such as Vince McMahon.
A WrestleMania moment could instantly be made should the trio initially tease they will reveal their boss at the event before officially aligning with him or her publicly on the grandest stage of them all.
Providing WWE continues their sterling work with the Shield, though, this option is perhaps unlikely to occur in the near future.
Daniel Bryan vs. Chris Jericho
In many ways, this really is a slide that speaks for itself, as no one could deny that Daniel Bryan vs. Chris Jericho wouldn't be a top-drawer feud.
Jericho's return this year was extremely anticlimactic, but his matches with CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler produced three wonderful PPV encounters, and one can only imagine how good they would be with Bryan.
Providing Bryan splits from Kane in 2013, the world could be his oyster should WWE commit to building him as a top star, and his support from fans of all ages seems to be growing by the day.
Jericho's future is uncertain, but should he return next year, a feud with Bryan with men as either a face or a heel would make for some truly momentous wrestling matches.
Both men are incredible at interacting with the crowd on the mic and during their matches, and if given a three-month feud featuring single matches and a stipulation match, there would be few things WWE creative could do to ruin this feud.
John Cena Loses Cleanly in a 1-on-1 Match
While in itself, the title of this slide is not representative of a storyline, should this event occur next year, it would likely go some way towards changing the state of WWE as we know it.
At WrestleMania 28, the company planted the initial seeds of weakness in John Cena, as he lost cleanly to The Rock. Since then, though, Cena's loses have been intermittent and often due to outside interference, where he is protected.
The rare times Cena gets pinned cleanly have mainly occurred during matches featuring more than one participant in his time as a main-eventer, his last pinfall loss occurring most recently at WWE Survivor Series 2012 in a triple-threat match.
When Cena has been pinned cleanly, it has often been during rivalries where he prevails by eventually winning the war, such as during his feud with Randy Orton in 2009.
While Rock went over Cena at WrestleMania, the "Great One" is a part-time star, and if WWE is to build the next Cena on a full-time basis, the company's poster boy needs to lose cleanly to the next big star, whoever that may be, on a grand stage.
Having lost at the last two WrestleMania events, the chances of Cena completing a hat trick of defeats at WrestleMania 29 are substantially unlikely, but should Cena become entwined with a rival leading up to SummerSlam (such as Dean Ambrose), then a clean defeat would go some way towards humanising him, something that has needed to happen for years.
Cena has been the biggest thing in WWE for a very long time. His drawing power, merchandise sales and relationship with the younger fans have seen him become bigger than the WWE title, and that needs to change.
One man should not be bigger than the company itself, and when a superstar headlines at the expense of the company's most valued and sought-after championship, then alarm bells should surely be ringing.
WWE needs to start building for life after Cena, and a one-on-one loss would indicate that the company realises in order to create new stars, they need to go through the man sitting at the top of the mountain.
Thanks very much for enduring my ramblings, and if you have anything you'd like to add, please do so in the comments section below. For more inane chatter, I am available to follow on Twitter @JWoodfield365.