WWE's Talent Expansion Continues, John Cena vs. Logan Paul, More Quick Takes
Triple H took great strides to replenish WWE's depleted roster upon taking charge of the company in 2022, and the recently-announced signing of international standout Dragon Lee indicates he has no intention of slowing down any time soon.
Many familiar faces have been brought to the company in recent months after not being given a proper opportunity to shine under the previous regime. All of them have had a role to play on their respective brands, but the real money will be in the new blood WWE recruits from here on out.
Despite that, expect to see more top-tier stars resurface around WrestleMania season, including John Cena. It has been believed for some time he will be in action at the event, and per WrestlingNews.co's Angel Aramboles, his opponent could well end up being Logan Paul.
It's a match the social media sensation has wanted since Crown Jewel, and it's certainly an attraction worthy of WrestleMania. However, the timing may not exactly be ideal for it to go down at this upcoming installment of The Show of Shows.
This edition of Quick Takes will analyze the potential consequences of Cena vs. Paul at 'Mania, Charlotte Flair's polarizing return to SmackDown, Samoa Joe restoring importance to the All Elite Wrestling TNT Championship, and more.
WWE Signing Dragon Lee Could Mean Big Things for Triple H's Talent Expansion in 2023
For those unfamiliar, Dragon Lee is an incredibly accomplished talent and an excellent addition to WWE's roster.
The 27-year-old has held gold in Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, CMLL and, most recently, AAA. He's the real-life brother of AEW star Rush and has put together a terrific resume of matches across the globe in the past seven years.
WWE has largely stayed away from signing anyone with an "independent wrestling" background since the summer of 2021, so the recruitment of Lee is significant. Not only can he find success on the NXT brand, he could be the first of several notable names joining the roster in 2023.
Buzzworthy acquisitions were part of what made NXT such a hot product from 2014 through 2019—more importantly, it was how they were used that turned heads. That will be the key with everyone Triple H aims to recruit in the coming months and ensuring they aren't brought in simply to get lost in the shuffle.
From Kota Ibushi to Nick Aldis to even Kenny Omega, this year will see many world-class competitors from various promotions become free agents. WWE needs more fresh faces at the top of the card, so in addition to developing their own talent at the Performance Center, enlisting more established wrestlers the caliber of Dragon Lee will pay off big time in the long run.
Charlotte Flair's Latest Title Reign Should Be Designed to Create a New Star
Ronda Rousey didn't exactly light the world on fire in 2022 with her WWE return run, and neither of her SmackDown Women's Championship reigns wound up being overly memorable.
Even turning heel and embracing the boos didn't seem to work as well as originally expected. Thus, taking the title off her on Friday's SmackDown was hardly an issue.
Rather, the problem lies in who she dropped the title to. Instead of putting over Raquel Rodriguez as the next big thing in the blue brand's women's division, she was beaten by the returning Charlotte Flair in fluky fashion, giving the second-generation star her fourteenth major title reign in the process.
There was no chase for the championship, and perhaps it was for the better that there wasn't. WWE reverting to the same old status quo with Flair as champ isn't a step forward or backward as much as it is an unfortunate indication that very few new stars have been created in Flair's absence.
Beyond Liv Morgan, the company has done an abysmal job lately of highlighting most women on SmackDown and making them stand out. The talent is there for it to happen, but WWE must be willing to use Flair as a vehicle to get someone else over as opposed to having her dominate the division as usual.
Samoa Joe Has Restored Some Much-Needed Importance to the AEW TNT Championship
The AEW TNT Championship has long been a meaningless prop because of how it's been handled in the last year, but Samoa Joe looks to be the first person to break that curse and give it the shine it desperately needs at the moment.
Since taking the title in a three-way match at November's Full Gear pay-per-view, Joe has been killing it in his role as TNT champ. He's had top-notch title defenses against Wardlow, AR Fox and Darby Allin and has done his best work in AEW both in the ring and on the mic to date.
It's a far cry from how the belt was booked previously. It wasn't defended in many interesting matchups and never took center stage on AEW TV. Now it feels like a coveted championship in Joe's possession with both Wardlow and Allin hot on his heels.
The Samoan Submission Machine was already holding the ROH World Television title and successfully defended that as well against Juice Robinson at Final Battle last month.
AEW's usage of Joe these past two months has been picture-perfect and has helped elevate the TNT title to where it once was. There's no reason to have him lose it to Allin come Wednesday's Dynamite when he can instead have a longer run and ultimately be dethroned by someone who hasn't yet had their star-making moment.
Gunther's Intercontinental Championship Reign Must Last Through at Least WrestleMania
For the last two months, WWE has been building toward a colossal clash between Braun Strowman and Gunther for the Intercontinental Championship and has done an excellent job of doing so.
It's easily the biggest bout the company can possibly book for the belt right now, especially with both titans having major momentum. Last Friday night, it was made official for the Jan. 13 edition of SmackDown as opposed to being saved for the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
WWE might be tempted to put the title on Strowman given how over he's been with the audience, but to end Gunther's reign at any point before WrestleMania 39 in April would be premature.
The Monster of All Monsters doesn't need a championship to sustain his popularity, not to mention there's plenty of mileage left in Gunther as champion. He's had a wonderful run, and every single defense has delivered. Waiting until WrestleMania to have it culminate would be the best course of action to take.
Sheamus makes the most sense to be the one to finally conquer Gunther and become champ given how the prestigious prize has always eluded him, but The Ring General must first overcome Strowman on SmackDown next week before that can become a reality.
John Cena vs. Logan Paul Is an Attraction, but Is the Timing Right for WrestleMania?
John Cena's WWE appearances are so few and far between at this point that it's a special occasion whenever he wrestles. Friday's SmackDown was a prime example of that when he and Kevin Owens teamed up to defeat the duo of Roman Reigns and Sami Zayn.
Prior to that, Cena hadn't competed for WWE since SummerSlam 2021. There's no official timetable on when he'll be back, and nothing was teased during SmackDown as far as what his future direction could entail.
The reported Cena vs. Logan Paul match at WrestleMania 39 would be befitting of the big stage in Hollywood, but WWE might be better suited spreading out the star power they'll have available for the event by not putting the part-timers against each other.
It's a first-time encounter, so to do it eventually (assuming Paul would portray the heel and it wouldn't be babyface vs. babyface) is perfectly fine. That said, there's a ready-made story with Cena and Austin Theory that makes way more sense for 'Mania than Cena vs. Paul at this point.
Their match wouldn't accomplish anything as far as the future of the product is concerned. Theory, LA Knight or anyone else on the rise would at least benefit from sharing the ring with Cena regardless of the outcome.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.