Playing the Long Game: 5 Storylines WWE Is Slowly Building for Future Payoff
WWE is completely unlike any other entertainment. It is a television experience that goes year round. Not a single week is ever missed. Because of this, the company is always telling stories, short term and long term.
Because of the nature of the product, long-term storytelling is less frequent. Sometimes Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live are still being written as the show is airing. However, this doesn't mean the company isn't setting up larger payoffs.
Wrestlers' stories begin small and gradually build up until they intersect. The individual stories of stars are far more likely to lead toward payoff months down the line. Feuds are the ones WWE is forced to change and develop quickly.
Sometimes, these longer stories also come out of nowhere. Kofi Kingston's WWE Championship victory was a decade in the making, and WWE never even realized what they were doing until it appeared.
What matters most is that fans feel these payoffs more than any other. When it comes off like WWE has cared enough to build to these moments, it is a credit to those who have stuck around through it all.
A few storylines stand out right now as important tales to watch. From moments that will set up future world champions to teases that could develop into stories that have been promised for years, the following are five storylines WWE is setting up for massive payoffs.
Ali Finally Gets His Title Shot Again
Ali's name has been brought up more since his return in relation to Kofi Kingston than connected to his actual appearances. The talented cruiserweight was on his way to a title opportunity, potentially even challenging Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35. Now, he's just waiting.
He is still doing good work since his return, but he has lost that air of importance due to a lack of spotlight. There's still an air surrounding him, though, that showcases a man ready to take that big step forward.
His King of the Ring showstoppers with Buddy Murphy and Elias were the latest proof he can compete at a high level given the chance. It would not be completely out of left field for him to step up to challenge either Kofi or Randy Orton after the two end their feud given both have mentioned Ali in their rivalry.
As Ali waits for his long-promised title opportunity, he will continue to put on stellar performances to remind WWE's top brass why he was in that position before Elimination Chamber. It sets up a powerful story of the underdog finally getting what he earned.
At a time when many smaller high fliers are getting big pushes, Ali has been waiting. It's just about time to deliver on a story that has already delivered powerful moments for the current WWE champion.
Drake Maverick Finally Consummates His Marriage but Loses the 24/7 Championship
Every time Drake Maverick appears on television, the first thing he and the announcers bring up is the 205 Live general manager's failure to consummate his marriage. It's the driving force behind his desire to become 24/7 champion even as it also keeps him from accomplishing that goal.
At some point, WWE is going to commit, and Maverick is going to get everything he wants, only to have the rug pulled right out from under him. Renee Michelle has unofficially become a member of the WWE roster through this story, and the next step would be having her win her husband's title.
Michelle has spent most of her time on Twitter frustrated about Maverick's insistence on the championship. Her ultimate revenge would be to steal the title right out from under him. It seems like he and R-Truth have strong control of this story, so this only makes sense for them to do next.
While the two men have been hilarious at times together, this final act in this story should hopefully free up the title for new contenders. Maverick and Michelle can come to terms, and fresh wrestlers can get their deserved shot.
The Scottish Psychopath Finally Snaps
It's hard not to see a star in Drew McIntyre. He's got the look and the charisma to stand out, and he has proved his ability in the ring and on the mic repeatedly. It's a wonder that he hasn't made the jump to the main event scene fully.
At some point, WWE is going to commit to The Scottish Psychopath, and it's going to be spectacular. All this starting and stopping can help build the anticipation. McIntyre is going to be angry and motivated both as a performer and as a character.
It's a scary thought to have a big man like that find momentum because he could run through everyone. The Claymore has been made to look deadly, and he could take down some of the best in the business, from Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns to Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan.
While he should have already gotten this opportunity, it is better WWE hasn't gone halfway with him. It will be all or nothing. McIntyre will either continue to fall just short or become completely unstoppable.
It would be particularly effective if WWE found a major event to start McIntyre's reign of terror over WWE. If he were to win the Royal Rumble, he could begin his sudden rise to dominance by taking out everyone that wronged him and finish it off with a WrestleMania victory.
Aleister Black Finds a Worthy Fight
Aleister Black has repeatedly challenged the roster to pick a fight with him. Some have stepped up, but they have all fallen. After each victory, he slips back into the darkness, hoping for a new challenger to knock at his door.
While The Harbinger of Fury has had some solid matches to date, it still feels like he's in a holding pattern. There's a reason for that. It sets up the potential for every rival to be the one that can finally challenge him to be his best.
What makes the story so effective is that anyone could be that guy for Black. While obvious challengers like Roman Reigns or Kevin Owens could be interesting, it's guys like Buddy Murphy, Apollo Crews or Rusev that could step up and help elevate both men at once.
Fans have only seen glimpses of just how good The Striking Man from Amsterdam can truly be. When he is challenged, it will lead to match-of-the-year contenders. It is possible Black could even get a WWE championship before he finds his worthy rival.
It will all have been worth it once somebody can punch Black in the mouth and make the devil truly smile.
The Four Horsewomen Finally Find Common Ground
The Four Horsewomen of WWE made a name for themselves individually. Charlotte Flair broke out quickly then stole the show repeatedly with Sasha Banks. Bayley became a defining star in NXT. Becky Lynch became The Man and won in the main event of WrestleMania.
More often than not, these four are fighting each other rather than working together. This past week only emphasized that as Bayley turned heel to join forces with Banks to beat down Lynch and Charlotte in back-to-back nights.
Before this is all over, though, WWE will bring them together. It is inevitable. As a foursome, they would be the biggest women's stable in WWE history, and there's no way that WWE would miss out on that, especially with the merchandise they can sell.
It will take an impressive force to push them together. The most obvious answer would be the return of Ronda Rousey and the formation of the Four Horsewomen of MMA, but there are other options as well if WWE commits to a group of heels.
What matters most is seeing four of the greatest female performers in WWE history all working together.