Bold Predictions for AEW and WWE in 2023

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 31, 2022

Bold Predictions for AEW and WWE in 2023

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    Might FTR leave AEW and sign with WWE once more in 2023?
    Might FTR leave AEW and sign with WWE once more in 2023?Credit: AEW

    2022 followed the trend of the past few years in that the world of professional wrestling was utter chaos month after month, with major things happening no one could have foreseen.

    2023 will either be a year for things to settle down, or will continue this legacy of being completely unpredictable.

    In either case, it is fun at the end of the year to use some educated guesswork on what might happen over the next 12 months, even if it's just to see how off those theories turn out.

    Let's gaze into our crystal balls and toss out some bold predictions of what's to come in 2023 for AEW and WWE!

Money in the Bank Will Return to WrestleMania

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    Credit: WWE

    Triple H has already spoken about how he thinks Hell in a Cell shouldn't be an annual pay-per-view anymore. In that same interview, he addressed similar concerns for Money in the Bank and Elimination Chamber, but argued how there is a difference, as those matches aren't about personal vendettas.

    That doesn't mean there won't be any changes to how those matches and events work, though.

    Elimination Chamber is already set for February, but Money in the Bank hasn't been announced yet. Perhaps that is because the game plan is to put it back on the card for WrestleMania.

    That was the original birthplace of the gimmick. Triple H and this new regime in charge may have liked that better.

    They also might not be as fond of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which has had less and less importance as the years go on. Its main function was to get Superstars on the card, but the last two years were just on SmackDown.

    It's worth theorizing a men's and women's Money in the Bank ladder match could take place on the two separate nights of WrestleMania this year as a means to get lots of Superstars on the lineup in easy fashion, as those matches require zero story but are still notable contests fans will be hyped for.

    Money in the Bank arguably works better as its own event, but if Triple H is in any way thinking of nixing that pay-per-view, the ladder matches will definitely be repurposed as part of WrestleMania Week.

King and Queen of the Ring Will Return as a Premium Live Event

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    Credit: WWE

    Since its inception in 1985, the King of the Ring tournament hasn't exactly been an annual tradition. There have been 22 tournaments over 36 years, with the most recent being October 2021.

    But with that win for Xavier Woods also came the first-ever Queen's Crown, won by Zelina Vega. The women's equivalent was a long time coming, and those two finales were fitting features of the Crown Jewel event.

    While that could very well carry over into the 2023 Saudi Arabia show once more, WWE has actually trademarked "Queen of the Ring" and, perhaps even more telling, "WWE King and Queen of the Ring" as a combined name.

    Assuming Hell in a Cell and possibly Money in the Bank do in fact go away, there will be open space on the calendar for other pay-per-views. One of those spots may go to a merged King and Queen of the Ring show, maybe for May or June leading into SummerSlam when it traditionally used to be slotted.

Signings and Releases

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    Credit: NWA

    It is inevitable some wrestlers will leave AEW and WWE, while others will be added to those rosters. What isn't known, though, is exactly who will be on those lists.

    WWE has been on a rehiring spree with talent like Karrion Kross, Johnny Gargano, Tegan Nox and most recently, Bronson Reed, among about a dozen others. This will assuredly continue in 2023 as Triple H looks to reattain some of the Superstars Vince McMahon let go who he still sees value in.

    Tyler Breeze stands a good chance to return, even if it's just as a coach at the Performance Center. The same goes for Kassius Ohno, who could be a fantastic addition to the coaching staff or NXT roster.

    Curt Hawkins may be in a similar position, particularly if Matt Cardona and Chelsea Green return to WWE, which may very well happen.

    Keep your eyes peeled for Nick Aldis to join WWE as soon as the 2023 Royal Rumble, which will be right after his NWA contract is officially done.

    Several AEW stars might be looking to head back to WWE, too, assuming their contracts expire in due time.

    FTR leaving when their deal is done in April is a very strong possibility. I'm expecting them to drop their IWGP tag team titles at Wrestle Kingdom, lose the AAA tag team titles after that, do some indie events for a few months and re-sign with WWE by the end of 2023.

    Around that time, Samoa Joe could be on his way back, too. Triple H had been grooming him for more of a backstage role, and with repositioning William Regal into his old role, the same could happen with Joe.

    Dustin Rhodes supposedly has less than a year left on his contract. He doesn't have to follow Cody Rhodes back to WWE by any means, but with his brother being there, a potential Hall of Fame induction lingering in the future and the Rhodes family having much less control in AEW than ever before, it's a smart bet he might end up back in the WWE Universe.

    Andrade and Miro could leave AEW for WWE, too, after having such rough experiences in 2022.

    Meanwhile, AEW won't just be left with people exiting the company. Tony Khan could make a play to sign Kota Ibushi, maybe steal some Impact Wrestling talent like Moose, who will have his contract expire in June.

Push Comes to Shove: Brand Split Ends or Unified WWE Championships Are Split Apart

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    Credit: WWE

    WWE has to know that having Roman Reigns and The Usos hold both sets of world and tag team titles has led to Raw, SmackDown and the pay-per-views struggling.

    Having two divisions doubles the number of easy feuds that can revolve purely around title defenses. It also allows more flexibility in telling those stories, as The Bloodline weren't going to drop their belts anytime soon. That meant no other Superstars could have a title run.

    This cannot sustain itself past WrestleMania—particularly while The Tribal Chief and The Usos carry two belts at a time.

    Following WrestleMania, there will be one of two decisions, depending on what WWE prioritizes.

    If WWE is fond of the crossover title reigns, new singular belts will be presented that represent the undisputed championships. No longer will the red and blue tag team titles differentiate Raw and SmackDown, nor will Reigns need to carry two world titles.

    On top of that, there is a good chance the brand split will end and other similar championships will follow suit in unification matches. Maybe the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships will be merged to allow for one world champion and the creation of a supplemental midcard title, instead.

    But if WWE doesn't want to end the brand split just yet, a decision will be made, instead, to break the unified titles apart once more, possibly with the 2023 WWE Draft.

    It is highly unlikely The Bloodline keeps their belts exactly as is, or they lose to opponents who continue to carry the same belts.

    Mark your calendars. By the end of April, the brand split and the titles themselves will be reformatted.

AEW X ROH Will Follow in the Footsteps of Forbidden Door

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    Credit: ROH and AEW

    A 2023 version of Forbidden Door has yet to be announced, but if AEW keeps its working relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, there's no reason to believe it won't happen again.

    However, even if it does, that doesn't mean there won't be another one of similar nature much more in-house involving Ring of Honor, rather than New Japan.

    In fact, since both companies are under Tony Khan's control and much of the roster already overlaps, it would be much easier to set up an AEW vs. ROH card than to collaborate with NJPW officials for creative direction and sort out everyone's travel across seas.

    The more attention brought to ROH, the more likely Honor Club's subscription numbers will climb. Since it won't have as big of an audience as AEW right out of the gate, a crossover event would help put the spotlight on the ROH roster.

    Watch out for this to effectively be how WWE has had Worlds Collide feature NXT vs. NXT UK, with champions against each other and potentially a Team ROH vs. Team AEW match.

A Raw or SmackDown Superstar Will Win the Inaugural NXT European Championship

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    Credit: WWE

    When NXT Europe launches, WWE has to do something to differentiate it from NXT UK. It cannot just have the same talent like Ilja Dragunov with a handful of new names, or it will suffer from the same lack of interest from the fanbase.

    To kick things off in a more interesting way than giving the belt to a relatively unknown name like what happened with Tyler Bate, WWE will go with a mainstream Superstar from the main roster.

    The three main candidates to look out for will be Finn Balor, Sheamus and Drew McIntyre.

    All three are from the region, so they'd have every right to be champion, as opposed to the first to hold the belt being someone like The Miz from Cleveland.

    On Mark Andrews' Love Letter to Wrestling podcast (h/t Cedric Welton of WrestlingInc), Balor explained that he pitched a run on NXT UK, but was turned down at the time. If that interest remains and WWE wants to make him a big fish in a small pond, he'd be a great choice as its first champion.

    Alternatively, The Celtic Warrior or The Scottish Terminator could fit the bill arguably even better. They're even more accomplished Superstars than Balor who also may not be winning a world title anytime particularly soon—especially if Reigns retains after WrestleMania.

    This would be a great means to give a major title to a star who would otherwise be sidelined, drum up more interest in the brand relaunch than to rest its future on lesser-known talent, and whoever would beat them for the second title run would be made by taking down a former main roster world champion.

Darby Allin and Sting, Dark Order and Other Groups Will Break Up

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    Credit: AEW

    Not every tag team that exists going into 2023 will stay together the whole year.

    Many like The Bloodline, The New Day, The Elite and The Acclaimed are tight enough that they should be fine. But the same can't be said for a team like Dark Order.

    After losing Stu Grayson, Alan Angels, Anna Jay and Preston Vance, this group is basically down to Evil Uno, John Silver and Alex Reynolds.

    At some point in 2023, the band-aid will be ripped off and Evil Uno will separate from Silver and Reynolds.

    Andrade El Idolo's confusing crossover factions will be cleaned up. There may be no official announcement the Andrade Family Office is done, but these soft separations like Angelico joining Chaos Project will continue until La Faccion Ingobernable is all that is left.

    The Firm might not stick around, either. The group is coming across as The Pinnacle in that it was a good idea but had a false start it hasn't fully bounced back from yet.

    Darby Allin will break off from Sting in 2023, either by turning heel and feuding with him or just cutting ties to be his own man. Their partnership has gone on far past the point that Allin gets anything out of being associated with Sting. It's time to move on.

    Also, keep an eye on The Judgment Day. While they feel like a tighter group now than ever before, they all have a lower ceiling as a team than their potential as singles stars.

John Cena, Stone Cold Steve Austin and/or Shawn Michaels Will Wrestle at WrestleMania

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    After the success of Steve Austin's return at WrestleMania 38, WWE has to be looking at ways to replicate that buzz for this year's grand event.

    Stone Cold could very well have been bitten by the bug again and feel more comfortable stepping back in the ring after last year. He certainly has an abundance of possible opponents who would make for great challengers like Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, if he's not busy with The Rock.

    John Cena should always be on the shortlist to return, considering his popularity. This is even truer now with his increased presence in Hollywood and WrestleMania taking place there this year.

    Following his tag team match alongside Kevin Owens against Reigns and Sami Zayn, Cena might want to scratch that yearly match off his list on The Showcase of the Immortals.

    Speaking of Owens, he apparently pitched having a match against Shawn Michaels, who supposedly turned it down, but not without saying he hasn't thought about it. All it takes is the seed of that idea growing in The Heartbreak Kid's mind, and in a month or so, he may decide to get on board.

    The Rock's appearance isn't even a certainty, but it isn't as nonsensical of a prediction for any of these three to return now that Austin proved in 2022 that you can never say never.

Batista Will Headline the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2023

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    Credit: WWE

    While all eyes are on The Rock potentially fighting Roman Reigns, or even the possibilities of Cena, Austin or Michaels wrestling, another legend worth looking out for during WrestleMania Week is Batista.

    So far, not one member of the 2023 Hall of Fame class has been announced or even hinted at. But since WrestleMania will be in Hollywood, it stands to reason WWE will be looking for some Tinseltown buzz, wherein Batista could be the perfect fit.

    Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is set for a May 5 release. Coupling the Marvel Cinematic Universe and WWE to work together in March leading up to WrestleMania in April would be a win-win marketing setup.

    Batista was originally scheduled to be inducted in 2020, but he was held back in favor of a time when a live crowd could celebrate his initiation in person.

    Now that that is no longer an issue, and more mainstream media can come out of it, Batista should be at the top of WWE's list of candidates for the next class.

    Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, Spotify and everywhere you find podcasts. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.