Predictions for WWE Raw, SmackDown and AEW Dynamite to Kick Off 2021
The new year brings a sense of urgency for WWE and All Elite Wrestling as both companies set their sights on upcoming pay-per-views, starting with this week's television.
Vince McMahon's company will focus on building to the Royal Rumble on January 31, while AEW works to put over Hard to Kill presented by Impact Wrestling, with which Tony Khan's promotion has been working.
The shows will give fans a closer look at what to expect heading into those events while presenting an overarching view of the Superstars and storylines that will dominate the early part of 2021.
One Step Closer to a Triple Threat Championship Clash
Keith Lee will challenge Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship on Monday's Raw in a match that figures to be more of a setup than one that delivers a clean, decisive finish.
For weeks, we have seen Lee and Sheamus feud over who is McIntyre's real bestie. The tension between them has escalated with every passing show, culminating in The Limitless One defeating The Celtic Warrior last week to earn the title opportunity.
The issues between the prospective top contenders, and the champion himself, will further intensify Monday when Sheamus interferes in the title clash. McIntyre will retain his title and the story will move one step closer to a Triple Threat between the three combatants in time for the Royal Rumble.
For the longest time, it appeared McIntyre vs. Sheamus was the direction, but Lee's involvement has muddied the waters and created a path to a three-way clash at the upcoming pay-per-view.
Considering the in-ring chemistry of the three performers, that is far from a bad thing and should result in a world-class, heavy-hitting battle at one of the company's premier pay-per-views.
The Return of The Fiend
The closing moments of last week's show saw Alexa Bliss douse herself in gasoline and dare Randy Orton to burn her alive, just as he did to "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs. The cliffhanger finish suggested The Viper was prepared to do just that.
While it was an edgier, more adult way to end Raw, it will be revealed that Orton did not engulf The Goddess in flames. Instead, he will use it as an example of what he is capable of when people cross him. More importantly, it will give way to the return of The Fiend.
The first episode of 2021 is one in which WWE will look to set the tone for the coming weeks and months and will look to do so with a big return that sets the stage for one last, wild gimmick match between Wyatt's alter ego and the third-generation heel.
It won't necessarily make sense considering the closing moments of the last PPV and will almost certainly have fans complaining about the quick turnaround. It will also add another high-profile match to the Rumble event, a show WWE is looking to load up as it sets its sights on WrestleMania 37 season.
Impact Wrestling Invades AEW Dynamite
We have seen AEW world champion Kenny Omega appear on Impact Wrestling television, but Wednesday night will mark the first instance in which the rival promotion's world champion will appear on Dynamite.
Omega defends his title against Rey Fenix in the advertised main event of the broadcast. He will successfully retain in what will be an early candidate for television match of the year, only to be attacked by Impact world titleholder Rich Swann.
Swann and The Motor City Machine Guns' Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin will battle Omega and Impact world tag team champions The Good Brothers (Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows) in a massive six-man tag team match at Hard to Kill on January 16.
Swann will leave Omega reeling heading into the event to present Impact as a genuine threat and, more importantly, usher in further invasions.
It will leave the internet buzzing and create excitement for the upcoming show, which is both companies' goal at this point.
Big E Continues Intercontinental Title Reign, Run to Royal Rumble Match
Big E ended 2020 by winning the Intercontinental Championship from Sami Zayn, and after teaming with Apollo Crews to defeat Zayn and King Corbin last Friday night, the powerhouse of The New Day will defend against Crews Friday night.
Big E will successfully defend the title against the former United States champion and continue his march to the Royal Rumble, where he figures to be one of the favorites to win.
The question is whether WWE is content with his "push" ending in the IC title run or if there are still plans for him to get a run at the top of the company, where he would presumably challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship.
We have yet to see them interact in any way, but that could change as we move closer to the Rumble, especially as he continues to rack up victories over midcard talent.