7 Bold Storyline Predictions for 2013 on WWE's Friday Night SmackDown
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Although the WWE's brand extension is essentially over, there are still remnants of the brand split on both SmackDown and Raw.
Just like we associate some stars, like John Cena, with Monday nights, we associate others, such as Sheamus and Randy Orton, with the blue brand.
You'll see plenty of superstars make a much bigger impact on the WWE's "B-show" than they will on its flagship show, which is good in a way because not everyone can get spotlighted on Raw.
In 2012, we saw guys like Sheamus and Daniel Bryan use SmackDown as their platform to be elevated up the card, and now, they are positioned as two of the WWE's biggest stars.
In 2013, we should expect to see some more monumental storylines on the blue brand that will have a huge effect on the WWE's short- and long-term futures.
But just what will those storylines be?
Let's take a look, with seven bold storyline predictions for the SmackDown brand in 2013.
7. Booker T Will Be Replaced as the Show's GM
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The WWE's general manager positions (or any other authority figures) have been revolving doors over the past few years.
We've had John Laurinaitis, Vickie Guerrero, AJ Lee and Teddy Long, among others, in positions of power at some point recently, and only Long had an extended reign as the head of either Raw or SmackDown.
The current GM of SmackDown is Booker T, but you shouldn't expect his tenure as the show's head honcho to last through the end of 2013.
Not long after Booker T was appointed the show's GM last year, we saw an angle begin in which he was being portrayed as an inept general manager, and there were signs that his stint as GM would end rather quickly.
That storyline was ultimately dropped, but in a WWE where plans change all the time, don't be surprised to see it pick back up sooner rather than later.
Although Booker T isn't necessarily a bad or good GM, he hasn't added a whole lot to the show and is far too similar to Long with his love for predictably making tag team matches.
With 11 months remaining in 2013, odds are that Booker T won't make it through the year as the SmackDown GM, and if/when he does get canned, don't be shocked if he's replaced by someone who's never been an authority figure.
6. Randy Orton Will End Alberto Del Rio's World Title Reign
As we all know, Randy Orton had a really down year in 2012, but things are already looking up for him in 2013.
He picked up big victories over both Antonio Cesaro and Wade Barrett last week, just a couple of days after making it to the "final five" of the Royal Rumble.
While Orton is certainly not in as good of a position now as he was just a few years ago, it looks like the creative team has big things planned for him this year.
There have long been rumblings that Orton will turn heel soon, and it's likely that he will be involved in a No. 1 contender's Elimination Chamber match at that pay-per-view with a chance to challenge for the World Heavyweight title at WrestleMania 29 on the line. He's gotta be one of the favorites in that match, too.
In fact, he looks poised to win it.
Look for Orton to outlast his five opponents inside the chamber, become No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, challenge Alberto Del Rio for the World title at WrestleMania 29 and possibly turn heel at some point during their feud.
Though Orton's big title win may not actually happen at Mania, he figures to win the World title during that feud and end Del Rio's title run.
Orton will have a huge 2013, and it will start when he's the one to dethrone the new king of SmackDown, Alberto Del Rio.
5. Neither Sheamus nor Wade Barrett Will Hold the World Title This Year
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Wrestling fans have expected Wade Barrett to win a World title since way back in 2010, but it's early 2013 and he still hasn't done it.
On the flip side, not many could have predicted that Sheamus would have become such a big star in 2012 or that he was going to hold the World Heavyweight Championship for seven months.
Sheamus and Barrett are on opposite ends of the spectrum in that Sheamus has exceeded expectations while Barrett has fallen short of them.
So, what will happen for these two in 2013? While it may seem unrealistic, neither will win a World title this year.
Sheamus had a solid, lengthy run with the belt last year, but it looks like he's going to have more competition in the World title scene in 2013.
With the newfound push of Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler holding the Money in the Bank briefcase and the expected World title rise of guys like Ryback and Randy Orton, Sheamus' chances of winning the World title this year aren't very good.
Ditto for Barrett, who's stuck as an upper midcarder and the Intercontinental champion right now.
While both Barrett and Sheamus are talented guys with very bright futures, the way the dominoes seem to be falling will leave them out of the World title picture for most of the year.
Neither Sheamus nor Barrett will win the World Heavyweight Championship in 2013 because the title picture will revolve around guys like Del Rio, Orton and Ziggler.
4. Dolph Ziggler Will Cash in on SmackDown, Not Raw or a PPV
The widespread expectation is that Dolph Ziggler will cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase either on Raw (when the most viewers are watching) or on pay-per-view (because it will feel like a bigger moment).
But Ziggler won't cash in and become World Heavyweight champion on Raw or PPV. He'll do it on SmackDown.
Although "The Show-Off" has teased that he's going to cash in at WrestleMania, he also guaranteed he would do it at Hell in a Cell. Obviously, that never happened.
Heels lie, and Ziggler isn't going to give us advanced warning before his cash-in actually happens.
While many fans would love to see him cash in on the grand stage of WrestleMania, a MITB cash-in has never happened on the biggest PPV of the year, and I'm not sure the WWE will change that this year.
That's why Ziggler will cash in on SmackDown, whether it be a live Tuesday special or a taped episode.
Seeing the latter happen isn't out of the ordinary, after all. Alberto Del Rio won the World Heavyweight title on a taped edition of SmackDown not too long ago, and Jack Swagger cashed in on a taped SmackDown to become the World champion in 2010.
With the WWE looking to give SmackDown the feeling that "anything can happen" on the show, expect it to feature a major moment when Ziggler cashes in to become World champion later this year.
Not only would this create a big buzz surrounding SmackDown, but it could establish Ziggler as the top heel on Friday nights.
3. Michael McGillicutty Will Get a Push on the Brand as "Joe Hennig"
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It's been so long since Michael McGillicutty did anything of note on Raw or SmackDown that some fans have forgotten that he's even still with the WWE.
Yet, all it takes is a simple Google search to see that McGillicutty has two really big supporters backstage in the company.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via WrestlingInc.com), both The Rock (who trained with McGillicutty prior to his Royal Rumble match with CM Punk) and Triple H are big fans of the son of Mr. Perfect.
But will that ever lead to an actual push for McGillicutty? I say yes.
If McGilliutty has so much support from two of the biggest names currently in the WWE, he seems bound to get at least one more chance to make an impact in the company.
Look for that to happen later in 2013, when the WWE drops the ridiculous McGillicutty name, repackages him under his actual name of Joe Hennig and gives him a renewed push to go along with it.
You might be thinking that McGillicutty has been booked so badly that he's already doomed to fail, but if Ryback can transform from a goofball named "Skip" to one of the WWE's top babyfaces, anything is possible.
Being that McGillicutty has the support of The Rock and Triple H, it's not out of the question for him to get one last opportunity to show what he can do on the main roster.
In 2013, McGillicutty will be back under his actual name, and he'll make a big splash on SmackDown.
2. Ryback Will Win the World Title and Become the "Face" of the Blue Brand
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In April 2012, Ryback debuted on SmackDown and instantly made a huge impact on the blue brand.
Then, he made the jump over to Raw, was forced into an impossible-to-book feud with CM Punk and ended the year by losing every major match that he participated in, completely killing his momentum as a result.
There's only one way to fix that, and it's by making Ryback the top star on SmackDown.
On Raw, Ryback is always going to be positioned behind Punk, John Cena and The Rock (while he's here, at least), which means the odds of him actually winning the WWE Championship and having a lengthy run with it are pretty slim.
On SmackDown, however, Ryback would have a much better chance of winning the show's World title and positioning himself as its top star.
SmackDown has served as a platform for elevating new guys to the main event (Mark Henry, Christian, Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, etc.), and Ryback will be the next superstar to be elevated to the top of the card on the blue brand.
With Ryback needing to regain his momentum, look for him to make the switch to the blue brand, enter the World title picture sooner rather than later, win the belt and establish himself as the "face" of Friday nights.
In 2011, it was Orton who was the face of SmackDown. In 2012, it was Sheamus. Right now, it's Alberto Del Rio.
But in 2013, it will be Ryback who takes Friday nights by storm and becomes synonymous with the blue brand.
1. Kassius Ohno, Richie Steamboat and Xavier Woods Will Debut After WresleMania
In 2012, three major stars debuted on SmackDown shortly after WrestleMania 28: Damien Sandow, Ryback and Antonio Cesaro.
In what seemed to be a rekindling of the "New Superstar Initiative" from ECW several years back, SmackDown served as the avenue for new stars to be brought up to the main roster.
That's going to continue in 2013 when several new talents will make their way up to the main roster and will do so by debuting on the blue brand.
The three stars we can expect to see this April? Kassius Ohno, Richie Steamboat and Xavier Woods.
When Cesaro, Ryback and Sandow were called up to the main roster in 2012, they were brought up because they were widely viewed as three of the best superstars who were yet to be on TV.
The same goes for Ohno, Steamboat and Woods this year.
Ohno is considered to be the most polished superstar in all of NXT, while Steamboat and Woods are viewed as two of the brightest young talents in the WWE as well.
They're expected to be on the main roster soon, and there's no better time for them to make an impact than shortly after WrestleMania.
When all of the part-time attractions leave, the WWE will be looking to make new stars, and these three men are going to get a chance to become one in 2013.
SmackDown loaded up with talent last spring, and it will do so again in just a couple of months by bringing up three guys who should already be on the main roster.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!