The last edition of WWE SmackDown in 2022 is now in the rearview mirror. The dawn of the new year will see Charlotte Flair as the new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
Elsewhere, the spotlight hit Kevin Owens as he sealed the fate of longtime friend Sami Zayn in the main event of Friday Night, which saw the “Honorary Uce” take the fall for his team. The Undisputed WWE Universal Champion most likely won’t take this loss lightly.
Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio will most definitely fight in a wrestling match at WrestleMania 39. This was expected as the seeds had already been planted in 2022, and their story became more personal on Friday Night SmackDown.
The perfect storm is coming in the form of a massive showdown of behemoths – Gunther and Braun Strowman’s inevitable clash is bound to happen as soon as the Royal Rumble, albeit Elimination Chamber seems like a better place for the bout to happen as the former premium live event is already seemingly jam-packed.
On commentary, Michael Cole has officially announced Bray Wyatt and LA Knight for a “Mountain Dew Pitch Black” match. Former WWE Universal Champion ate Sister Abigail from Uncle Howdy, who, as of yet, doesn’t seem to be on Wyatt’s side. Knight asking, “What is going on?!” is the exact sentiment of the WWE Universe. It seems their story is inching toward an epic finale.
With some major storyline progressions and a swerve that nobody saw coming, the new year will kick off the road to WrestleMania in the best way possible.
Let’s look at five exciting storylines to watch out for on the road to WrestleMania 39.
#5. Former Women’s Tag Team Champion is on WWE’s radar in 2023
On January 2, 2023, episode of RAW, WWE is looking to grab the attention of its audience with an intriguing matchup. Alexa Bliss will be taking on the Female Wrestler of the Year, Bianca Belair, for the RAW Women’s Championship.
Bliss has been showing signs of a massive heel turn after Wyatt’s logo has often flashed on the titantron in her segments, be it during an interview or when she is making her entrance. After becoming the number one contender with a victory over Bayley on the December 12 episode of RAW, Little Miss Bliss teased, to hit Sister Abigail on the EST. A week later, she smashed a vase over the champion’s head.
While the possibility is slim for a title change on RAW this week in the world of pro-wrestling, anything can happen out of the blue, as evidenced last night with the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Irrespective of a win for Bliss, she is destined for a major program heading into the Show of Shows. The inevitable meeting with Wyatt is most likely part of a bigger story for the Eater of Worlds involving several superstars.
Wyatt’s domination of WWE programming with compelling storytelling will get fans invested on the road to WrestleMania.
#4. Is Braun Strowman the man to knock down The Ring General?
Former WWE Universal Champion Braun Strowman made a “ferocious return” to the Stamford-based company on the September 5, 2022, episode of RAW. He then moved on to the SmackDown brand, defeated Omos at the Crown Jewel premium live event, and is currently embroiled in a feud with The Ring General.
Gunther had a breakout year in 2022 – making his debut in April, winning the Intercontinental Championship in less than a month, had a feud of the year candidate against Sheamus, and is currently on WWE’s radar for a significant program at the Show of Shows.
The question is: Should Braun Strowman be the one to end Gunther’s stellar reign?
Well, it looks like a major possibility WWE is taking this route. Whether The Moster Among Men wins the workhorse title for the second time in his career remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, Strowman is a credible superstar and has some exciting options for Mania, including Ricochet, Drew McIntyre, Solo Sikoa, and from a storyline standpoint, Bray Wyatt as well, owing to their rich history.
Gunther, too, may be heading towards a blockbuster match on the Grandest Stage. The Ring General earned it after a great run with the Intercontinental Championship in 2022.
#3. A grudge looming between The Scotsman and the man that cost him his biggest match this year
Solo Sikoa is The Bloodline’s silent powerhouse, much like his cousin Roman Reigns during the latter’s time in The Shield. Solo hasn’t had an individual storyline since his debut in September.
On the other hand, Drew McIntyre lost all the momentum he built prior to Clash At The Castle. This was evident in the main event itself, as the crowd was hooked and on the edge of their seats all the while until that finish happened, where Sikoa cost The Scottish Warrior the bout. It took every bit of life out of the arena.
In the final edition of SmackDown in 2022, Drew McIntyre saved Sheamus from Sikoa after the latter picked up a huge victory over The Irishman.
Shoutout to WWE for building this feud in a slow-burning fashion. It seems Solo and McIntyre are heading into a feud in 2023, likely on a big stage at a premium live event. Elimination Chamber seems like a fitting place for the two to lock horns. Maybe even at the SoFi Stadium.
Meanwhile, former world champions Drew McIntyre and Sheamus will challenge The Usos for the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships on SmackDown next week. The bout was originally scheduled to take place on the December 10, 2022, episode but was changed at the last minute.
#2. Kevin Owens stands by his Longtime Friend to destroy The Bloodline
Kevin Owens has been embroiled in a bitter feud with Roman Reigns since late 2016. The two wrestlers have fought each other countless times at premium live events. Despite this, the crowd is highly receptive toward a potential showdown between The Prizefighter and The Tribal Chief.
After returning during the buildup to Survivor Series, Owens lost the WarGames bout at the event courtesy of a low blow from longtime friend Sami Zayn, who proved his allegiance to The Bloodline.
However, Zayn is still an “Honorary Uce,” as mentioned in commentary by Michael Cole on SmackDown last night. Shoutout to Cole for such minute details being mentioned on television.
After Zayn ate a pinfall following a Stunner by Owens in the main event of SmackDown, Reigns might look to kick The Honorary Uce out of his faction owing to the latter’s inability to handle the “Kevin Owens problem.”
The former WWE Universal Champion, however, has had the backing of fans and even WWE’s franchise player, John Cena. There is nothing he has against Zayn in particular other than the fact that he is siding with The Bloodline.
This is all going to lead to compelling television on the road to WrestleMania, where most likely, Owens and Zayn will finally team up to destroy The Bloodline by taking the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships away from The Usos.
2023 looks great for Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, the two workhorses in WWE that deserve this major program on the Grandest Stage of Them All. After every feud against each other or together over the years, the duo might just be the best tag team of the following year.
#1. A major title unification bout could take place on the Grandest Stage
In a surprising turn of events, Charlotte Flair returned to the blue brand on December 30, 2022, immediately after Ronda Rousey retained her SmackDown Women’s Championship against Raquel Rodriguez.
The Queen defeated Rousey in an impromptu match with a roll-up to become a 14-time World Champion.
This may have come as a shock to everyone, as the rumors swirling around the internet for months were two title bouts on the Grandest Stage – Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair vs. Bianca Belair.
While this is still a possibility, there are plenty of options for WWE at this point, with a plethora of talented superstars on the current roster, including Raquel Rodriguez herself, who was clearly the better wrestler in her bout against Rousey, and even somebody like Lacey Evans, who seems to be undergoing a character change.
Elsewhere, Alexa Bliss, Damage CTRL, and Rhea Ripley, among others, also deserve substantial programs.
Could WWE be planning for a Title Unification match at the Show of Shows between Flair and Belair?
Rousey and Lynch are two superstars who do not need a World Championship to sell their bout. So is this the direction Triple H and Co. have in mind?
The road to WrestleMania started early and looks to be a great few months ahead for the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, heading towards their biggest show of the year.
Do you think it’s a good idea to have both the women’s world titles unified, especially with the company possibly looking to split the men’s in 2023? Sound off in the comments section below.
Poll : Do you think Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will get a run with the Tag Team Championships in 2023?