Mr. Tito, 12/24/11: These predictions were posted on LordsofPain.net on January 6th, 2011, as I was into something late 2011. I promise you, the readers of MRTITO.com, that I'll have my 2012 Predictions column posted around Thursday of next week.
Enjoy this classic!
Welcome, one and all, back to the "excellence in column writing" provided to you by Mr. Tito. I hope that everyone is having a good year, as today's column will be about the year 2011. Yes, I know we're 1 week into this year already, but no time for love Dr. Jones... I'm a big fan of the Market Ticker BLOG written by Karl Denninger, and most notably, his "Where We Are, Where We Are Headed (Insert Year)" columns. They are a list of economic predictions that pulls no punches and is quite terrifying considering the predictions made and the track record of his prior years. With that said, I have no problem emulating good ideas and incorporating them into the wrestling world.
Thus, today's column will deal with 2011 Predictions Regarding Pro Wrestling...
Let's define "where we are" first before describing "where we are headed". 2010 was a rough year for the pro wrestling industry. Maybe the "recession proof" tag wore thin, as ratings, buyrates, attendance, etc. fell across promotions. The WWE endured some embarrassing buyrates for 2010 and it seemed as though they wanted to blame someone like Sheamus (WWE Champion for a good bit of 2010) instead of a weak midcard, lack of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, or Undertaker due to injury or retirement, or just a lack of imagination for booking. After the Nexus destroyed John Cena for a "shocking" end to a RAW back in June, the Nexus gave lame promos and did the same types of attacks (hey, everybody hit your finisher!) to even present something new to fans. As 2010 ended, it appeared that John Cena would move on and face a new-look CM Punk. Hopefully, this feud isn't derailed by John Cena's hip pointer.
TNA continues to be awful. Investing in HoganCare to start 2010, they blew their attempt at being a Monday night program with, well, bad programming... 2010 TNA saw the likes of the New World Order and Extreme Championship Wrestling being reunited more than 10 years later after their peak worth. On top of that, the chance of getting Paul Heyman was squandered as TNA loves their HoganCare. TNA will never learn that creating new talent amounts to more longrun growth than buying old parts.
Where we're headed... Triple H is due to return while also having increasing amounts of backstage power by being named Vince McMahon's top advisor. It's Royal Rumble/Wrestlemania season and the WWE needs to book a strong Wrestlemania card due to recent weakening of buyrates. WWE is also 100% on NBC/Universal cable stations with RAW on USA Networks, Smackdown on SyFy, and Tough Enough returning to USA Networks as a reality show. For TNA, this is arguably a make-or-break year for them. They appear to be wanting to shed payroll and go a different creative direction, but history is always against them.
So without further ado, here are Mr. Tito's 2011 predictions:
John Cena will land a big movie role in 2011. Recent news reports are suggesting this move is coming as talent scouts in Hollywood have probably seen his decent efforts on WWE films and probably know his popularity with the fans. With that said, I'm noticing a trend of action films dominating the scene. I believe that John Cena is in possible line for Jesse Ventura like roles, where he's not the star of the movie, but has a significant presence (Predator and Running Man for Jesse Ventura, for example). I believe the movie role might take up Cena's time during the summer or the time between Summerslam and Royal Rumble. Then, and only then, he'll have to make a major decision about wrestling for 2012.
Steve Austin will return to pro wrestling in 2011. In contrast to Cena, Austin's time of interest in Hollywood is low and the best way for Austin to "cash in" is for one last run in pro wrestling. His recent interview about how his "neck is 100%" and how he has "one last match" in him tells me that he has the "wrestling itch" again. I believe that Austin did not like how his in-ring career ended in 2003 as well as letting a lot of his domestic violence stuff with Debra define his legacy. He's coming back and if not Wrestlemania, for something else later this year and maybe for another promotion.
Triple H will be a World Champion by Summerslam. I think Cena getting hurt could put the WWE in a panic and of course go to old reliable to become champion. With injuries and some of the younger wrestlers not panning out, Triple H might be needed or deemed by Vince to "carry the promotion", especially in the buyrate department.
Wrestlemania 27 buyrate will be lower than Wrestlemania 26. I believe the specter of Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker drove Wrestlemania 26 buyrates higher than they should have been. Additionally, I believe that the recession has changed wrestling fan spending habits, so thus cutting back on discretionary Pay Per View spending will become a permanent behavior, including Wrestlemania. Unless my Austin prediction comes true early, WWE doesn't have that "special" match lined up that everyone HAS to see like Michaels vs. Undertaker II, and that was with Michaels' career on the line.
Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler are both headed to RAW. The trend since 2004 has been that any successful Smackdown act gets traded to RAW. Vickie Guerrero getting crazy over in her segment with John Cena tells me she'll get moved to RAW and possibly take Dolph Ziggler with her. Given the current structure of RAW, I believe Ziggler could fit better wrestling some of the younger Nexus guys and other wrestlers on the roster rather than some of the big, tall talent on Smackdown.
Sheamus and/or Wade Barrett are headed to Smackdown. Both guys seemed to get pushed but somewhat flameout in 2010, but might fit better on the Smackdown roster to feud with Kane, the returning Undertaker, and Jack Swagger. I'm thinking Sheamus definitely with Wade Barrett having a slight chance of remaining on RAW.
WWE stock won't break $20.00. Even with stocks growing thanks to cheap Federal Reserve money flowing, there's still too much PR risk with the WWE. I'm wondering if a few former wrestlers speaking out on their Twitter accounts or in other media forms will continue to push the bad image of the WWE. Then again, this next prediction could come true.
Drug scandal will hit pro wrestling. I hate making this prediction, but it's been a while since the WWE and/or pro wrestling in general has been hit up with bad news regarding substance abuse. Maybe the "Wellness Program" is working? My prediction is based on what State governors are doing. In the news, I've seen state governors banding together to crack down on prescription drug abuse. Now granted, this is aimed at painkiller abuse, but I believe it could present leaks of athletes illegally obtaining HGH or painkillers. In this crackdown, I believe plenty of "cover your ass" will occur and thus the media will get fed lists of "patients".
Smackdown Roster will merge with RAW or the show itself will get moved away from Friday nights. I could argue that the brand extension has run its course, but the show itself won't succeed if it remains on Fridays. It's no secret that the WWE, as a whole, hasn't been the same since Smackdown was moved to Fridays. The success of the recent Tuesday Smackdown special on USA Networks was telling in the ratings and what else is there to view on SyFy? I wouldn't doubt that Tuesday Night Smackdown happens by 2011. With Comcast buying NBC/Universal, they won't cancel WWE programs because of how cheap WWE programming is to obtain (with the WWE absorbing much of the production costs).
A former World Champion will be released after Wrestlemania by the WWE. I won't name names, but in this era of the WWE not being afraid of releasing wrestlers, anyone can be up for an unfortunate termination. Thus, after Wrestlemania when the WWE makes their "spring cleaning" cuts or sometime after that, a former World Champ could be likely to be cut.
Linda McMahon will NOT run against Joseph Lieberman in 2012. Linda lost by 11% during the 2010 elections, despite much of her Party dominating the races elsewhere for the House, Senator, and Governor contests. Add to the fact that she spent $40 million of her personal fortune to lose by 11%. I believe she'll hold off on running against Lieberman and might try to run for something local instead, possibly a House of Representative spot. Lieberman, especially if it's a 3 way dance again as it was in 2006 in Connecticut.
Sting will work with the WWE at some point in 2011. Even if he's on a loaner from TNA or if WWE and TNA work together, I believe that the WWE wants Sting badly for a DVD release and I believe Sting would want to have a say on his WCW legacy. Sting will be 52 in March and can't keep doing the in-ring product forever (although facepaint hides wrinkles!).
WWE media will begin cracking down on former wrestler comments. I'm sensing that the WWE media is watching the current situation closely regarding Matt Hardy and Shane Helms getting nasty on their Twitter accounts or other forms of media. With the WWE being a publicly traded company, I wouldn't doubt that they'll began defamation legal challenges against any former employees speaking out. I would not doubt that gag orders are filed on ex-wrestlers.
TNA will shed payroll and revamp the creative team. I heard it for a while that TNA wanted to begin reducing payroll after an expensive 2010 budget year. I also don't believe the creative staff is working. I expect Dixie Carter and Jeff Jarrett to squabble over the effectiveness of Vince Russo in TNA. Now, whether that leads to Paul Heyman getting consideration again, I don't know, but TNA needs changes and I believe 2011 will be the year this promotion comes to a head.
Triple H vs. Vince McMahon will begin to happen. With their professional relationship becoming well known through public filings, I wouldn't doubt that they'll attempt to exploit this with a feud that could start up by late 2011 and possibly give us something for Wrestlemania 28.
Michael Cole will be revealed as the RAW General Manager. This one is out there, but I could see with recent attempts at pushing Cole's heat beyond the announcer booth, the WWE was testing the waters to see how he could fair as RAW General Manager. He could have been lying about reading something on the laptop the entire time and reveal himself as the RAW GM. Though I still reserve that Triple H could still be the RAW GM, which would set up my HHH vs. Vince prediction nicely, it seems that Cole could land the role.
OK - That's all I have... We'll return late this year or early next year to score my points.