2011 has come and gone... As a hopeful tradition that I'll continue each and every year that I dare continue being Mr. Tito, I'm going to write Pro Wrestling Prediction columns at the end of each year. These are inspired, of course, by the great Karl Denninger's Market-Ticker predictions, which are worth reading with fear by clicking here. Like Karl, I'll review my 2011 Predictions posted 1/6/2011 on LordsofPain.net, elaborate on the wrestling business, and then present my 2012 Predictions.
I owe it to Karl for the great column format, so please patronize his website at Market-Ticker.org.
John Cena will land a big movie role in 2011. Huge miss. At the end of 2010, John Cena appeared burned out to me and didn't have the Rock on the horizon to somewhat motivate him.
Steve Austin will return to pro wrestling in 2011. Miss! Austin did in fact host the Tough Enough reality show, but that was as close to a WWE return that we saw. Oh, and he was the referee for the Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole match at Wrestlemania. What a shame.
Triple H will be a World Champion by Summerslam. Very wrong, miss. I expected Triple H to return to being a full time wrestler after Wrestlemania 27 but instead, he too time off between the RAW after Wrestlemania 27 to the RAW after Money in the Bank, and then failed at being the "Chief Operating Officer" character.
Wrestlemania 27 buyrate will be lower than Wrestlemania 26. Huge miss, but I wasn't expecting both Steve Austin and the Rock to appear to boost buyrates. My bad.
Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler are both headed to RAW. Direct hit! In fact, both Vickie and Dolph moved to RAW before the 2011 Draft. I figured with Vickie getting over as Dolph's manager, it was only a matter of time before WWE management wanted to showcase her heat on RAW instead.
Sheamus and/or Wade Barrett are headed to Smackdown. Point! I actually posted this just after the Smackdown spoilers came out with Wade Barrett jumping to Smackdown in early January... I don't read spoilers, so point... Sheamus later moved to Smackdown via the 2011 Draft. I figured both would get scapegoated for the downward spiral on ratings/buyrates for 2010 as RAW wrestlers and I was correct.
WWE stock won't break $20.00. Point, but I raised the bar way too high on this prediction.
Drug scandal will hit pro wrestling. Miss. To start 2011, I was actually predicting that a prescription painkiller sting would catch many wrestlers and professional sports athletics. Several states, including mine here in Ohio, are trying to crack down on prescription drug abuse. Sure, Matt Hardy had problems and several wrestlers were suspended for using synthetic marijuana, but no embarrassing drug scandals occurred this year that the WWE and the industry couldn't control. I'm actually GLAD that I missed this one.
Smackdown Roster will merge with RAW or the show itself will get moved away from Friday nights. Scored. We now have the "RAW Supershow" and the WWE has experimented with "Live" Tuesday Smackdown shows. Sure, the titles haven't merged, but Smackdown's best wrestlers are on RAW regularly and will remain that way until further notice.
A former World Champion will be released after Wrestlemania by the WWE. Miss, unless you could the WWE's version of the ECW Championship as a World Title and there were 2 former ECW Champs gone this year from the WWE (Chavo Guerrero, John Morrison). I DO NOT count the WWE version of the ECW Title as an official World Title, so thus, no point for me!
Linda McMahon will NOT run against Joseph Lieberman in 2012. Point. How can she? Joe Lieberman announced his retirement on January 19th, 2011.
Sting will work with the WWE at some point in 2011. WRONG! Many rumors were flying that Sting would wrestle at Wrestlemania 27, but in the end, he came back to TNA and actually had a pretty strong 2011 to be honest. With his character rebooted, it makes me wonder if the WWE will take notice for 2012.
WWE media will begin cracking down on former wrestler comments. Not yet. To end 2010, I was watching Shane Helms, Matt Hardy, and a few other wrestlers shooting on the WWE using their Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. Knowing the "great website closure of the early 2000's" performed by the WWE Media division, I figured a legal crackdown on former wrestlers was coming. I was wrong, but in all honesty, most of those former wrestlers seemed to quiet down on their own.
TNA will shed payroll and revamp the creative team. Point. They have reduced the size or at a few big name contracts that were on their books, but the demotion of Vince Russo wins the second half of my prediction. I made this prediction thinking that TNA would remove Hogan/Bischoff but instead, they gave them more power and demoted others.
Triple H vs. Vince McMahon will begin to happen. Point! The whole reason behind the "Chief Operating Officer" role for Triple H was to eventually set up Vince vs. Triple H "dick measuring contest" for 2012. If you'll recall, Vince reportedly reamed Alberto Del Rio and John Laurinaitis for mentioning Vince's name in a promo because he wanted to keep a low profile before revealing himself to be behind Kevin Nash and John Laurinaitis's games.
Michael Cole will be revealed as the RAW General Manager. Very wrong on this, although with the anonymous RAW GM never being revealed, I should get credit for predicting his spokesperson... I got the sense with Cole openly updating his Twitter on television (which would allow him to send messages to the RAW GM computer) and thickening up his heel character that he would be the one.
8 for 16 on Predictions for a 50% clip. Not bad, folks...
Where We are Headed
To start 2012, the WWE is in a "Land of Confusion". On one hand, they wish to push Alberto Del Rio to the top while always keeping John Cena and Randy Orton strong. Meanwhile, the fans want CM Punk to become the top guy and stay there. WWE, however, appears to have long-term issues with CM Punk.
The injury bug, however, has hit the WWE to start 2012 with Del Rio having a torn groin (4-6 weeks) and Randy Orton having back issues (reportedly up to 6 months to rehab and recover). That leaves 2 gaping holes in the WWE franchise and someone has to step up. Orton is the "big draw" of Smackdown and the WWE might think fast to move a big name from RAW to Smackdown (Wrestling Observer reports that the WWE might want CM Punk there). Without Del Rio on the roster, who will get his heel push? Miz or newcomer to the main event push scene, Dolph Ziggler?
For the WWE, they've placed all of their chips on 2 things: Wrestlemania 28's Rock vs. John Cena match and the WWE Network. Obviously, the buyrate could be huge for Wrestlemania 28 and the business leading into that event. I wouldn't put too much reliance on it, as the WWE had to really work to get Wrestlemania 27's buyrate up (adding Rock, Austin, and Triple H vs. Undertaker), as well as ongoing issues the WWE is having with piracy of Pay Per Views.
The WWE Network, however, is Vince McMahon's "Firewall" to all of his sagging business issues. He has the belief that this new start-up Cable network is the answer to all of his problems and that it will be an instant success like other channels dedicated 100% to one thing. It's a very tall order to stimulate demand among consumers for this channel as well as actually running it. I look at things like World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), XFL Football, WWE Films, and the WWE music label and I wonder how successful Titan Sports/WWE Corporation can be outside of the in-ring product at live/televised events.
For 2012, the WWE has to face up that John Cena and Randy Orton won't be there forever. Randy Orton has a back injury that might continue to nag him even after he rehabs and John Cena isn't getting any younger. While the WWE wants Alberto Del Rio to be the next great superstar, he's not proving to be a draw just yet. Ditto for Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, or many other younger wrestlers on the upswing. CM Punk does have drawing power but obviously the WWE doesn't think he can sustain it as the top guy.
2012 could be ripe for a year where one of the younger wrestlers simply steps up and becomes that star. Granted, they need favorable booking by the WWE Creative Team, but the one area where the Creative Team can't affect you is in the ring with a wrestling match. You either have it, or you don't. Someone like the Miz, Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Cody Rhodes, and others could just step up their game a notch and a superstar could be made.
The real big risk is that the WWE is unable to grow business in 2012 when the start-up costs and the risk of failure for the WWE Network might eat the WWE Corporation alive!
As for TNA... Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff remain in charge... I think in 2012, some of the top stars will consider their options and jump to the WWE. After all, there is some need for additional star power AND the openings caused by injuries could make the timing for a jump right. That, or they'll start looking at Ring of Honor, which is gaining more of a television presence, as a new option.
I think we're in for a very interesting year with the need for the WWE to evolve and also for the debut of the WWE Network. On paper, the prospect of a 24/7 wrestling channel sounds great but it could be an epic disaster that the WWE might not recover from this time around.
Onto the predictions.
2012 Pro Wrestling Predictions
We will, of course, score these at the midway point fo 2012 and also at the end of 2012.
(Repeat)Triple H will win a World Title - With the WWE in need of buyrates/ratings, I figure a "knight in shining armor" moment will occur with Triple H and he'll be champion again sometime during this year. That, and at 13 championships, he's just 3 away from the WWE's recognized 16 championships that Ric Flair has won.
(Repeat)Steve Austin will wrestle at some point in 2012. - I don't see it at Wrestlemania 28, but he could certainly headline SummerSlam. With his movies tanking and the WWE in need of a star, an agreement will be reached and Austin might actually comeback as a regular wrestler in 2012.
WWE Stock Price will not go above $15. - I figure we'll get close around Wrestlemania 28, but I figure that with Europe's problems looming and possibly about to explode, the stock market could be in for a ride in 2012. Lower Pay Per View revenues AND higher expenses incurred due to the start-up of the WWE Network will hurt profit margins for 2012.
Sting and the WWE will do business in 2012. - With the WWE Network now in play, getting Sting's input on his large library of matches would be a draw for the network. That, and cashing in on the final days of physical DVD media, the WWE better act quick. Plus, I think that Sting had a good enough year in 2012 with TNA that the WWE might actually give in to a lessened schedule.
Rosters will fully merge in 2012, titles included. - With the WWE Network, I'm seeing a possibility that Smackdown on SyFy might disappear or be reduced as a show. The houseshow circuit for the Smackdown roster is embarrassing and with recent injuries, the WWE needs the stars on one strong houseshow circuit and together as a strong roster. We're already at the "RAW Supershow".
WWE will induct a deceased wrestler into the Hall of Fame for 2012. - Who exactly? I don't know... But I sense 2012 is the year that the WWE "rights a few wrongs" for dead wrestlers who haven't been inducted yet for whatever reason. I figure the WWE might be open to the Poffo family induction, which includes "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
WWE will raid the TNA Roster for their Top Stars - I'm amazed at how uninterested the WWE is in TNA's roster, but I figure that the WWE, in hopes of shaking things up, will go after a big name TNA star. Samoa Joe has always been a candidate for discussion, but I wouldn't doubt that the WWE goes for more than him. At some point, some of the longtime TNA stars should become impatient with TNA's failure to grow.
At least 1 WWE Diva will pose nude for Playboy for 2012 - Too many smokin' hot women in the WWE to not warrant attention from Hugh Hefner and enough time has passed (since 2008 with Maria) to make it seem fresh to have a WWE Diva(s) pose nude.
WWE Network will see marginal success on Comcast, but will struggle to get on other TV providers. - WWE has a strong advantage of being hosted by USA Networks and the SyFy Channel, both now owned by Comcast as part of the NBC/Universal acquisition. I believe that the WWE might actually take a "loss leader" hit with Comcast just to get eyeballs on their new channel so that owners of Dish or DirecTV can hear the word-of-mouth or see the WWE Network at a friend's house and demand it! I think you'll see overall losses on the WWE Network, but only because of start-up costs and struggling to get on other TV carriers other than Comcast.
Media and/or Legal division of the WWE will get serious about Pay Per View Piracy in 2012 - Also with Comcast, the WWE is now a working partner of a major internet service provider. Don't doubt that the WWE will either work out a web streaming deal with Comcast for its Pay Per Views or actively use Comcast to track down those setting up the PPV steams AND those watching the shows. WWE is losing MILLIONS due to the ease of watching their PPV shows for free and in this economy where revenues are needed, the WWE will use its resources to actively fight PPV piracy in 2012.
Linda McMahon will LOSE the Republican Primary for Senate. - She is presently attempting to win the Senate seat vacated by Senator Joseph Lieberman. For one, memories exist of her 2010 campaign where she couldn't even ride the major GOP wave and take "Countrywide" Chris Dodd's seat. She still lost by a large margin despite spending around $50 Million of her own money. GOP voters in Connecticut will remember her inability to win despite factors that should have sent her to Washington in 2010. I believe Chris Shays will surge and get the nomination based on his prior Washington experience and name recognition among Republicans. The "Ghost of Chris Benoit" will show up again, too, as Shays knows how to campaign.
Stephanie McMahon will officially be named "Chief Executive Officer" (CEO) by year-end. - Recently, several senior staff members of the WWE Creative team have been working more at the Corporate WWE offices. Stephanie is reportedly one of them and I believe she is actually being groomed to become the CEO of the WWE. Currently, Vince McMahon owns the official title after Linda stepped down to run for the Senate. As CEO, you have certain obligations to your shareholders and public events that you must attend. I believe this is burning Vince out while Stephanie is now prime to take that official title over. Stephanie has been in the business for 10+ years now and is a Communications Major which thus gives her a strong professional background to be the WWE's top official officer. Vince will remain Board Chairman.
Shawn Michaels will wrestle at least 1 match in 2012. - Some of you have noted that I've been all over the Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Undertaker match. Reportedly, Wrestlemania 28 will be Triple H vs. Undertaker with Shawn Michaels as the "special guest referee". I believe during 2012, the Undertaker is going to put over Michaels whether it's at Wrestlemania or a future event. HBK has been more than generous to the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 25 and 26, so thus I believe HBK will get some redemption.
John Morrison won't go to TNA Wrestling. - Most assume that Morrison will jump to TNA. I don't. He doesn't seem like a fit there and I believe he might realize that the grass isn't greener elsewhere besides the WWE. That, and Ring of Honor is another option...
(Repeat) Former World Champion will either be released or retire from the WWE. - Unlike last year, when I had one name, I have at least 3 former WWE or World Heavyweight Champions on my radar as possible post-Wrestlemania 28 cuts or possibly walking away from the WWE. With the WWE Network costs and the economy sagging, I'm expecting major cuts on the WWE roster during June/July. I hate making this prediction, but seeing the WWE's finances and attempting to predict the economic climate for 2012, I'm worried about what I see.
CONCLUSION: There you have it. My 2012 Pro Wrestling Predictions. We'll score this midway after June 30th and then score at year-end.
And again, thank you to the Market-Ticker.org for the format, column idea, and ongoing great content.