When WWE fans look back at the year 2022, it’ll largely be considered the year of Roman Reigns. He won the unified championship at WrestleMania 38, and never looked back. Both Raw and SmackDown have mostly centered on the Tribal Chief and his Bloodline faction. So much so that WWE is running the risk of this angle growing stale before it can pay off at WrestleMania 39. If fans will remember 2022 as the year of Reigns, then which superstars could own the upcoming 365 days?
Both the red and blue brands appear to be approaching a state of flux in 2023. Most pundits believe that Roman Reigns will be working a much lighter schedule following WrestleMania 39, giving audiences a chance to miss him while also allowing Reigns the chance to take a breather. Assuming that Brock Lesnar will only be used for shows like Crown Jewel and WrestleMania, WWE will have a few major roles to fill in the coming months. There are a handful of stars who seemed poised to cash in on this empty air time and fill the Reigns/Lesnar void. In no particular order, here are eight WWE stars who could end up owning 2023.
8/8 Montez Ford
Let’s kick this list off with a somewhat out-of-left-field pick in Montez Ford. The 32-year-old enters 2023 a good way off from being the kind of singles star who could dominate a year. The Street Profits are arguably the best tag team on Raw, and there isn’t any on-screen friction between Ford and Angelo Dawkins at the moment. There was a point in 2022 when it seemed like WWE might pull the trigger on a breakup angle, but that never came to pass.
The Street Profits put on a handful of bangers against The Usos last year, but with The Bloodline holding all the gold, it feels like this tag team has reached its ceiling. With no titles for the team to win before WrestleMania 39, Triple H could swerve fans by booking Dawkins and Ford to go their separate ways. There’s reportedly been some consideration given to another draft in April or May, so it wouldn’t have to be a predictable heel turn for either Angelo or Montez. Ford has singles star written all over him. If given the proper booking, 2023 could be the year fans begin to see that potential shine through.
7/8 Sami Zayn
The Honorary Uce is so over with fans that WWE wisely made it part of the ongoing storyline during the December 30 episode of SmackDown. Roman Reigns is supposed to be The Guy who is getting acknowledged in the Bloodline, but audiences have primarily been getting behind Sami Zayn over the last several weeks. Odds seem reasonable that the Head of the Table will eventually lose patience with being upstaged, leading to Reigns, The Usos, and Solo Sikoa turning on Zayn. When that happens, WWE will have an opportunity to create the most white-hot babyface in recent memory.
Even if Triple H doesn’t perfectly book this angle, it’s tough to imagine them botching Zayn’s upcoming face run. There’s a tremendous amount of pressure building in this angle, and once the Bloodline saga comes to a head, everyone involved besides Reigns will reach new heights. This is the storyline WWE has invested the most time, effort, and energy into. No one stands to gain more from the fallout than Zayn.
6/8 Raquel Rodriguez
2022 featured several ups and downs for Raquel Rodriguez. She made her main roster debut in April, popping up unceremoniously during a backstage interview segment with Kayla Braxton. Los Lotharios welcomed Rodriguez to show by hitting on her, which kicked off her uneven booking throughout the year. It seemed like Triple H had a plan for her when he took over creative in July, but Rodriguez was still involved in a few head-scratching moments.
Still, WWE only features a few competitors like Rodriguez. Standing 6 feet tall, she’s a legit powerhouse-in-waiting for the women’s division. Consider that over on Raw, Rhea Ripley has been booked as an absolute killer, and she’s all of 5-foot-7. Size isn’t everything in professional wrestling, but there’s no denying that Raquel has a unique look and skill set. When she was given chances to shine in 2022, she mostly managed to do so. With Charlotte Flair back on SmackDown, Rodriguez could set her sites on taking down The Queen sometime in 2023. That’d represent a hallmark moment as she cements her place on WWE’s main roster.
5/8 Bron Breakker
This is the only dip we’ll take into the NXT pool for this list, mainly because main roster call-ups are so difficult to predict. WWE’s developmental brand is home to some of the best prospects in professional wrestling. Among them, Bron Breakker has established himself as a proper blue chipper. His main roster debut might not be imminent, but it’s tough to imagine a scenario where he spends another year developing in Florida. Again, operating under the assumption that WWE won’t have consistent access to Reigns and Lesnar, the company will need marquee names and matchups.
That’s why it’d make a ton of sense for Breakker to debut on Raw or SmackDown and go on an absolute rampage. Fans don’t like to be told who the next big thing is, but Bron has enough of the “it factor” that he might be able to withstand some of that initial heat. It might be tempting to bog him down in midcard programs with Elias, Dolph Ziggler, or Madcap Moss, but Breakker could as just as quickly debut closer to the top of the card. If he gets his call-up shortly after WrestleMania 39, watch out.
4/8 Alexa Bliss
The upcoming few months should be incredibly interesting for Alexa Bliss. She’s gone on record and said that the time she spent working with Bray Wyatt was the most fun she has had in her career. His untimely release in 2021 cut his program with Alexa short, and fans never really got an actual resolution to that storyline. Wyatt is back on SmackDown now, though, and even though Alexa Bliss is working on Raw, she’s been heavily influenced by his return.
This unfinished business gives WWE much flexibility in terms of building Alexa Bliss up to be an absolute monster villain on the red brand. She turned full-blown heel recently by smashing a vase over Bianca Belair’s head. It is safe to assume that this is the beginning of whatever rabbit hole Bliss and Wyatt will lead fans down in the coming months. Raw’s women’s division has gotten stale lately. Bayley and Damage Control aren’t working as the main heels on the red brand, which creates an opportunity for Bliss to step up and dominate in 2023. There are groundbreaking stories that WWE could tell about Bliss and her fractured relationship with Wyatt. Let’s see if Triple H and Co. decide to pursue them.
Including Ricochet on this list feels a bit risky, because he made his main roster debut in February 2019. He’s not involved in the biggest storyline in wrestling like Sami Zayn, he’s no longer a prospect like Breakker, and he hasn’t been locked into a tag team like Montez Ford. So why would 2023 be different from 2022 for Ricochet? The answer is a simple one: Triple H. Under Vince McMahon, smaller wrestlers like Ricochet had a glass ceiling on how high they could climb in WWE. Barring a Bryan Danielson-type crowd surge, this was impossible to break through.
That won’t be the case under Triple H, who leans more into the physical nature of wrestling than his predecessor. Since the backstage shakeup in July, Ricochet has been booked strongly. His program with Gunther helped elevate the Intercontinental Championship, and he’s claimed singles victories over the likes of Braun Strowman and Mustafa Ali as of late. It looks like he’ll be in an odd-couple pairing with Strowman as 2023 opens, but backstage rumblings indicate that WWE has big plans for the 34-year-old. He’s probably not getting a run with the Universal Championship this year, but expect him to be involved in chases for either the IC or US titles, depending on which brand he’s on at the time.
2/8 Rhea Ripley
More so than anyone on this list, Rhea Ripley seems in line to win a major championship for WWE in 2023. That’s not a knock on anyone else here. Instead, it speaks to just how high of a ceiling the 26-year-old has in the coming 365 days. Whereas someone like Ford or Ricochet could be better positioned in 2023, Ripley is already being sold to fans as one of the most dominant forces on Raw. She’s winning intergender matches, effectively interfering on behalf of Judgment Day every week, and has a built-in money feud with Becky Lynch to boot. Put simply: If WWE wants to push Ripley to the moon in the coming months, they’ll have all the fuel needed to do so.
It wouldn’t be shocking if Ripley’s 2023 looked much like Bianca Belair’s 2022. Belair was lost in the shuffle in 2021 before establishing herself as one of WWE’s most reliable stars in 2022. It took a long storyline with Lynch to get her there, but Belair is now one of Raw’s most consistent forces. Ripley could go on a similar run, just as a heel. WWE has set her up to go on a Chyna-type run through the entirety of the midcard, and it could result in one of the most distinctive pushes in recent memory.
1/8 Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes says he wants to pick up right where he left off in 2023, and WWE will likely give him every opportunity to do so. Stories like The American Nightmare’s come along once in a generation. Here’s a professional wrestler who felt he was being taken for granted by WWE, went out and helped start AEW, and then came back to the major leagues to try and win the heavyweight title that always alluded his legendary father, Dusty Rhodes. His torn pectoral muscle was incredibly unfortunate, but in a way, it positions Cody to return even more beloved than he already was.
He might not win that championship in 2023 because of how much money there might be in the chase. If WWE wants to, Rhodes pursuing his first world title could be The Story of the following year, culminating at WrestleMania 40 in April 2024. That’s an eternity in professional wrestling, but if WrestleMania 39is going to be all about Roman Reigns and possibly The Rock, then it’d perhaps make sense to put Cody on the back burner early in 2023 before heating him back up towards the end of the year. No matter which road WWE takes, Cody Rhodes will be front and center once he returns from his injury.
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