This past 2023, wrestling and even casual WWE fans alike saw some of the mind-blowing turn of events in the entire programming of WWE. Starting from the first episodes of weekly TV shows such as RAW, NXT, and SmackDown, to the Premium Live Events from January’s Royal Rumble up to November’s Survivor Series: WarGames. Moreover, the variety of live wrestling fans inside the arena which WWE held several PLEs outside United States for the first time in its history. It was truly a blast watching WWE in these times since more people are enjoying the product for the past several years due to the outstanding job of Triple H being its Chief Content Officer. Since the gap between 2 of the “Big 4” WWE PLEs is 2 months prior, there are several compelling storylines that are being planted on both red and blue brands which made the audience draw their eyes more on the product.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Cody Rhodes is a nice way to kickoff 2024
During their first encounter in the episode of RAW after Survivor Series: WarGames, Shinsuke Nakamura quickly attacked the American Nightmare out of nowhere with a mist. Although there were several vignettes of Nakamura pointing to someone weeks prior, he remained it undisclosed until that week. This feud is great to kick-off 2024 since it gave highlight to both wrestlers’ victory in the Royal Rumble match as they quickly earned a ticket to WrestleMania but suffered their misfortune on their respective championship matches in different years. As usual during this time of Triple H being in-charge, Shinsuke Nakamura delivered his promo well using his language with subtitles on the screen which made the delivery more natural while showing some “manga-like” video graphics while he’s talking. That was one of the best graphics that I saw on a promo in any WWE program this 2023.
On the other hand, Cody Rhodes still wanted to grab the chance at the Royal Rumble match for the second time by announcing his entry and finishing his story for good, as he always says. He will probably face Roman Reigns again for the Undisputed WWE championship at WrestleMania 40 if he wins the Royal Rumble match twice if he ever wins. There is a doubt that Cody will win the Rumble match twice in a row with CM Punk’s gigantic return at Survivor Series: WarGames in his Chicago hometown. I’m afraid to say that Cody’s chance of winning the Rumble match is lower than before due to WWE probably wanting to place CM Punk in one of the main events of WrestleMania for the first time. But who knows, maybe Cody will win the Elimination Chamber match instead and become number one contender for the Undisputed WWE championship.
Apex Predator vs Tribal Chief for the Undisputed WWE title: more than a year in the making
Randy Orton made a highly-anticipated comeback at Survivor Series PLE as the fifth member of Team Cody to fight against the Judgment Day at WarGames match. The following episodes of SmackDown, Randy Orton decided to stay on the blue brand and will finally face and seek his revenge on Roman Reigns after being beaten down by the members of The Bloodline and later suffered an injury that made him miss wrestling for 18 months. During his first encounter with “main event” Jey Uso in their match as teammates at WarGames, Randy seemed like he didn’t forget a thing especially that The Usos cost them their Tag Team championship reign with his former tag team partner Matt Riddle. Honestly, this was one of the worst last decisions of Vince McMahon before leaving his position as creative head since it didn’t gave a chance to other tag teams to prove themselves as deserving for a title reign, that Triple H hasn’t been putting a “remedy” for this problem. Going back, Randy Orton challenging Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE championship is not an immediate answered prayer since he still needs to face AJ Styles and LA Knight in a Triple Threat match to become number one contender.
Thankfully, the push for LA Knight is not yet done since he’s still a part of having a “chance” to become number one contender since his match with Roman at Crown Jewel but I don’t think so. It’s clear that Randy Orton will have the highest possibility of winning that Triple Threat match at SmackDown’s New Year’s Revolution episode and it’s not even close. If ever Randy becomes number one contender and loses to Roman at Royal Rumble, then a rematch could be possible, but everyone knows what Roman Reigns is right now and how WWE treats him with his championship. Last week’s episode of SmackDown saw their first ever face to face interaction in the ring since Randy made his return at Survivor Series and Randy Orton did not waste any time in telling Roman that he’s coming after him to take away “everything” including the Undisputed WWE championship. Of course, Roman’s cousins are there to protect their tribal chief at all times to retain his championship gold, in other words he’s still retaining his Undisputed WWE Championship against Orton, but who knows maybe Randy Orton will be the one to beat Roman.
CM Punk entering the Royal Rumble match in 10 years; having his first feud with Rollins
CM Punk made his stupendous return to WWE after 9 years despite all the controversies that happened prior to his departure. Remarkably, his last appearance in WWE in 2014 was in the Royal Rumble match itself which he entered at number 1. During the 11th December episode of RAW, CM Punk decided to become a part of the RAW brand as he signed a contract that was holding by RAW General Manager Adam Pearce. It was somehow predictable that he would be a part of the red brand since Randy Orton decided to stay on SmackDown a week before, and it will also leave RAW to lack star power if ever Punk chose to be a part of the blue brand. It’s also a part of CM Punk that he made several remarkable moments on Monday nights especially during the “Summer of Punk” storyline in 2011.
Then here comes Seth Freakin’ Rollins who showed up right after Punk and Adam Pearce signed the contract. Prior to this promo segment, it was trending all over social media platforms that Rollins was “dismayed” when CM Punk made a shocking return to WWE in front of Chicago fans. It maybe a part of kayfabe or not, everything seems to be realistic in this feud of Punk vs Rollins. It should also noted that both of them are currently babyfaces as of this time of writing, that might divide the fans inside the arena on who will be cheered or booed.
AJ Styles returned in a shocking way
The Phenomenal One is back in WWE with a bold statement to everyone. He just attacked the crowd favorite LA Knight (YEAH!). It was a surprise that he first attacked The Bloodline then pulling the trigger to LA Knight, marking a start of a feud between the two. Both wrestlers still need to fight to become a number one contender for the Undisputed WWE championship at SmackDown’s New Year’s Revolution in a triple threat match with Randy Orton. With AJ Styles’ talents and chemistry with several pro wrestlers, this can be a great addition to the other compelling storylines and feuds in WWE this 2024.
The question that has been raised in my mind is what’s next for The O.C.? To Michin (Mia Yim), she just needs to be in a match on women’s division and I think she’s in a good place as of late. She teamed up with the babyface team led by Bianca Belair in fighting Damage CTRL and will challenge Iyo Sky for the WWE Women’s Championship at New Year’s Revolution episode of SmackDown. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows must be placed in the Tag Team Championship picture before everything else falls into place. Although Judgment Day is still there and will remain there as the dominant faction in WWE right now, but with AJ Styles’ sudden shift in character, it’s not bad for WWE to grab the opportunity to replace The O.C. as the next dominant stable in WWE in 2024.
Karrion Kross and Scarlett are forming a new stable
This past episode of SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made a vignette about the “vision” of Karrion Kross in the future. In the silhouettes, three people can be seen that was flashing on the screen. WWE fans have noticed that it might be Authors of Pain with Paul Ellering, but it will remain unknown until the time was right for WWE to introduce who these people were. However, this will be a huge advantage for Karrion Kross to be utilized entirely in the main roster. Since it is still unsure on how WWE will treat Karrion Kross without a stable, especially now that it’s been a different scenario in comparison to his days in NXT then this new stable consisting of Kross and AOP will bring disaster and will probably break some factions into pieces.
Since 2021, Karrion Kross made his main roster debut on an episode of RAW and had his first match against pro wrestling legend Jeff Hardy. Disappointingly, his overall presentation was bad as Vince McMahon put some changes to Kross from his usual presentation during his time in NXT. He was released and came back in 2022 and confronted Roman Reigns but he was watered down again and was not utilized again until Vince regained a bit of power again and was released…again. Now it is time for Triple H to prove people wrong that the Karrion Kross in NXT will be presented also in the main roster for the majority of mainstream audience. Together with this newfound allies, this stable will also add to the flavor of WWE program if it will be done right.
One thing is sure with all of these storylines, they’re not fooling the WWE audience around. Unlike Vince McMahon’s vision of “compelling” storylines that includes goofy, corny jokes and childish word exchanges. 2023 is already a remarkable year since it brought back the interest that the WWE fans wanted to see in its product, especially that Vince McMahon is not already interfering with WWE’s creative direction. All of the storylines in the time of Triple H makes the audience feel the product itself in an entertaining way while it injects the term wrestling in several aspects. Furthermore, it feels like these feuds meant business that all participants are eager to bring the fight into the ring to finish what they have started, and to fix what they have destroyed.