7 Major Predictions for WWE's Top Stars in 2014
When 2014 arrives, WWE Superstars will look to make it their year, acquiring championships, producing classic matches and creating memorable moments as their characters make major shifts.
One former champion will go without a title, while a bearded bulldog will add a championship belt to his ensemble. Which alliance will fall apart? Which fan favorite will return to the dark side?
Looking at the hints WWE has planted, patterns and the company's needs, the following is a set of predictions for what CM Punk, Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio and others will accomplish in 2014.
Alberto Del Rio Will Go the Entire Year Without a Championship
After wearing one WWE crown or another for much of his career, it's time for Del Rio to slide off the throne for a year.
The pattern for him so far has been one golden year followed by one devoid of titles. Del Rio was WWE champ twice in 2011 and world champ two times in 2013.
Expect Del Rio to be involved in a personal feud or two, but to be pushed out of the title picture for the time being. With Batista added to the championship mix that already includes Randy Orton, Punk, Daniel Bryan and John Cena, it will be too crowded for Del Rio to gain championship opportunities in 2014.
Instead, Del Rio's role will be that of star maker, losing to those receiving pushes as he has done recently against Sin Cara.
Cody Rhodes and a babyface Roman Reigns are among the stars who will use him as a launching pad. Del Rio's been so successful that he can withstand those losses and easily return to the top when 2015 rolls around.
CM Punk Will Produce the Match of the Year
CM Punk spent 2013 composing classics against a variety of opponents.
Refer to any fan's list of best matches of the year and Punk's name will be all over it. His fight against Undertaker at WrestleMania 29, his SummerSlam bout against Brock Lesnar and his Feb. 25 match opposite Cena were all instant classics.
With a new set of opponents in 2014, expect similar results.
Should he feud with Bryan, face Cena again or get a rematch against Lesnar, greatness is guaranteed. Bryan was the most popular Superstar of 2013, but Punk delivered more often than anyone else.
He will be the talk of several pay-per-views in the coming year, continuing his recent stellar run.
Daniel Bryan Will Win WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWE twice took away Bryan's championship in 2013. A sustained reign is coming in 2014.
Bryan is too popular to not place on top of the company at some point. The constant raucous reaction he garners from fans and his cleaning up at the Slammy Awards, including walking away with Superstar of the Year, has to have grabbed the company's attention.
Aside from Punk's historic reign in 2012, WWE Championship history from 2009 to 2013 has seen an average of 7.5 title changes every year. Punk, Cena and perhaps Batista can be expected to be among those who will benefit from those title transfers, but it's hard to imagine that Bryan will not be part of that group as well.
His fan support will push him into his third WWE Championship reign.
The Shield Will Implode at WrestleMania
WWE has already revealed cracks in The Shield's unity.
Dean Ambrose got into Reigns and Seth Rollins' faces during a battle with Punk before TLC. When that pay-per-view came, Reigns inadvertently speared Ambrose off his feet. Their breakup is coming, and there isn't a bigger stage for that moment than WrestleMania.
Count on Reigns tearing away from the group and going on a solo run in 2014.
Showcasing that turn and the dissolution of the highly successful trio has to be given the right spotlight. WrestleMania provides that.
The stress from battling The Wyatt Family or continued infighting will do The Shield in, allowing the three promising members to seek their individual legacies.
Sheamus Will Turn Heel
Expect 2014 to be the year Sheamus reverts back to villainy.
WWE is going to need a top heel with Punk, Bryan, Cena and perhaps Reigns and Cody Rhodes handling marquee babyface duty. That will call for Sheamus to toss aside his fun-loving side and become the warrior he was in 2009.
He's already shown how compelling he can be as a heel, and it's time for a change for Sheamus anyway, as he's been a fan favorite since 2011.
Should Batista return as a face, Sheamus provides an ideal opponent as a villain. His turn would balance out WWE's light and dark sides.
Cody Rhodes Will Headline a Pay-Per-View
Rhodes is ready for his closeup.
The storyline that saw Triple H can him, Rhodes fire back in memorable fashion and return to form the hottest tag team in the division was a huge step for him. He's showcased his ability to be a headliner with the quality matches and compelling personality he's shown along the way.
After WrestleMania, when the part-timers head home, WWE is going to need stars to be on the marquee for lesser shows like Payback and Battleground. Count on Rhodes getting opportunities as the headliner opposite an established main eventer like Randy Orton.
AJ Lee Will Break Record for WWE's Longest-Reigning Divas Champion
The announcers have begun to call our attention to how long AJ Lee has been Divas champ.
It's beginning to feel a lot like when Punk's WWE title reign was reaching a historic length. This is the company's chance to portray AJ as one of the greatest women's wrestlers in company history.
She is now nearing 200 days as champion. Beth Phoenix's 204 days is well within reach, and Maryse's record of 216 days will be an achievable goal right after that.
AJ has knocked off her major challenger, Natalya, several times and repeatedly fought off The Bellas. Unless Paige makes the move to the main roster or Tamina Snuka turns on her soon, AJ has a clear path to the record.
The Royal Rumble comes after she would have passed Maryse, so she'll likely have to defend it once more on Raw or SmackDown to claim the record for longest-reigning Divas champ.