5 WWE and AEW Predictions for the Rest of 2021
It has been an interesting year in professional wrestling for both WWE and AEW, with both companies making splashes over the course of the first 11 months. As December nears, though, there is still plenty of time for pushes to ignite, titles to change hands and both companies to tip their hands from a creative standpoint.
And all of those things will happen.
With just five weeks remaining in 2021, these are five predictions on what fans can expect as the top promotions in the industry wrap up their year.
WWE: Edge and AJ Styles Begin Rivalry That Will Carry Through WrestleMania
Edge returns Monday night on Raw, his first appearance since defeating Seth Rollins inside Hell in a Cell in Saudi Arabia. While that feud wrote its final chapter overseas, the Rated R Superstar will kick off a feud that will carry him through the end of the year and into WrestleMania season.
His opponent? "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles.
"Like AJ Styles- So I started in '92, and I think AJ started in '96, and we've never wrestled, which is insane. We've both been in the industry that long. We were just always in separate places. He was TNA or he was Japan and I was WWE my entire career, so that's another aspect of it too," he said.
Styles has been in a holding pattern of sorts for months now, wrestling almost exclusively against Randy Orton and Riddle as part of the red brand's tag team division. Look for that to change as the most important stretch of WWE's year ramps up.
Edge vs. Styles gives the former the opportunity to have one of those dream matches he missed out on during his first run before a near-debilitating neck injury forced him into premature retirement, but it also provides The Phenomenal One an opportunity at a high-profile singles feud.
Styles spent the majority of 2021 working in tag team matches with Omos while others had an opportunity to headline shows. While he has done an admirable job of preparing Omos for an eventual run on the big man's own, it is time for one of the best, most respected wrestlers in the business to have the opportunity to remind fans of it.
With Kevin Owens' contractual status up in the air, Styles is the readiest and most obvious opponent to program Edge with as the company begins the march to Dallas for the biggest show of the year.
AEW: Cody Rhodes Embraces the Dark Side
By the time the weightlifting belt came careening back to the ring just seconds after Cody Rhodes ripped it off and threw it into the stands, it became abundantly clear that the displeasure fans currently harbor for The American Nightmare will cause more problems them good for the company moving forward.
The issue with Rhodes as it currently stands is that fans are not choosing to cheer his opponents over him, as WWE's audience did in relation to John Cena for years. Instead, the negative reaction for the Executive Vice President of AEW is distracting from the matches he is a part of. We saw it back at Full Gear when the tag match he wrestled with Pac against Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo suffered from it.
Despite being the biggest star in the pre-Thanksgiving Dynamite main event pitting him, Pac and the Lucha Bros against Black, El Idolo and FTR, his involvement was relatively limited and the match gained more traction as a result.
The reaction isn't necessarily Rhodes' fault, per se, but the self-righteous character isn't doing him any favors. Some of the promos are over thought rather than being the raw, simplistic, emotional displays that helped him connect with fans as the heart and lifeblood of the company in the first place. His matches and feuds haven't lived up to the early programs he was part of.
He has been a prominent part of the show but his output has taken a step back and staleness has set in. His character has not evolved and the fans have reacted accordingly.
Wednesday's errant superkick that fell Pac could be a sign that things are heading in the right direction for Rhodes. Might he make a slow-burn heel turn, listening to the audience's desires rather than stubbornly staying the course?
As someone who helped found AEW by listening to fans and paying close attention to trends in pro wrestling, Rhodes will eventually realize that is the right call.
By the end of the year, he will begin to embrace the dark side and become the villain AEW deserves.
And best of all, none of that will adversely affect his ability to lead the company's community outreach efforts, which is something he cited for resisting the turn, because the guy he is in the ring does not have to reflect the man he is outside it.
WWE: Liv Morgan Wins the Raw Women's Championship
Last December, Big E paid off the momentum he had built throughout the fall, capturing the Intercontinental Championship from Sami Zayn on the Christmas Day episode of SmackDown. This year, WWE will pay off another lengthy push with a title victory as Liv Morgan realizes her dream and wins the Raw women's title from Becky Lynch.
That may seem rather unlikely given how hard WWE has pushed Lynch upon her return in August, but a January 1, 2022 pay-per-view means the company can very easily put the title back on Big Time Becks if the plan is for her to head into WrestleMania season the champion.
Even a short reign solidifies Morgan as a player in a division that she has desperately tried to make headway in for the last two years. It tells the audience that the company believes in her, rather than simply setting her up as the latest challenger for the champion to topple. It provides the fans proof they need to then invest in Morgan in a way they have tried to, only to find resistance in her start-and-stop booking.
Morgan will win the title as the consummate underdog, a role WWE loves to push its babyfaces in, and Lynch will have been key in helping create a new star.
AEW: Jurassic Express Wins the AEW Tag Team Championships
Jurassic Express' Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy teamed with Christian Cage to defeat The Superkliq at Full Gear, then beat Adam Cole and Bobby Fish days later on Rampage. With Cage vowing to guide the team to the tag team titles this past Wednesday on Dynamite, it appears as though the duo is in line for a push to the tag team gold.
And rightfully so.
Jungle Boy has been nothing short of a star this year, shining every time he has had the opportunity to. Luchasaurus is a freaky athlete, a heavyweight capable of flying through the air one minute and chokeslamming the opposition through the mat the next.
They have made for an incredibly effective team and more importantly, are among the most over in the entire company. While the opposition, the Lucha Bros, are equally as over, they do not necessarily need the tag titles to remain that way.
Penta El Zero Miedo and Rey Fenix are internationally recognized. They were stars before arriving in AEW. For Jurassic Express, winning the titles would give them that last bit of credibility to really establish them as stars not only of the future but, also, the here and now.
While some might balk at the idea of taking the titles of Fenix and Penta after they just won the gold back at All Out in August, it would be a great exclamation point on a transformative year for Jungle Boy and the next logical step for him and Luchasaurus after passing every test put before them.
WWE: Fans Will Demand Jeff Hardy, Not Drew McIntyre, Be Next Top Contender
Friday night on SmackDown, the seeds were planted for Drew McIntyre to become the babyface whom WWE officials Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville attempt to hold down and keep out of the Universal Championship picture.
While McIntyre is a great worker who has certainly earned a main event run in front of actual fans after his 2020 reign as WWE champion occurred in the empty ThunderDome, the fans will demand someone different. That someone? Jeff Hardy.
The Charismatic Enigma remains as popular as ever, generating loud ovations in each arena he enters. WWE has begun teasing a potential main event run, too. At Survivor Series, he was the final wrestler eliminated from Team SmackDown. Friday night, he was welcomed home to North Carolina like the returning hero he was as he teamed with McIntyre to defeat Happy Corbin and Madcap Moss.
Later, he celebrated a win in a No. 1 contender's battle royal, only to be dumped to the floor by a Sami Zayn who had not officially been eliminated.
Hardy is a proven commodity, someone the fans love and a competitor who has thrived at the top of the card. As the weeks pass, do not be surprised if the audience forces WWE's hand, making them halt the apparent McIntyre push in favor of Hardy, who never competed against Roman Reigns in a major program before.