WWE New Year’s Redemption: Which Superstars Are in Need?

WWE New Years Redemption
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Uncertainty, abrupt changes of plans, and skeleton crews trying to keep the proverbial ship afloat have become the norm in a world grappling with the ongoing challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic. All of these dynamics have impacted the world of sports entertainment, as it has other facets of life. In 2021, World Wrestling Entertainment gradually transitioned out of its ThunderDome facility back to touring and performing in front of live crowds. It was hoped that the reactions of live audiences would lead to feedback incorporated into WWE’s storylines, rather than the singular vision that had reigned over the ThunderDome, especially Monday Night Raw. This brings us to the topic of WWE New Year’s redemption.

While it remains to be seen if that is the case, it is hoped that in 2022 some of WWE’s “Superstars” whose booking seemed to lose the plot can recover, and reach something close to their careers’ past heights. Those in need of some WWE New Year’s redemption are…

WWE New Year’s Redemption: The Superstars to Know

Drew McIntyre WWE Raw card

Drew McIntyre

After being released by WWE in 2014, Drew McIntyre hit the ground running to rebuild his profile in the pro wrestling industry, becoming a strong presence on the global independent scene. He returned to WWE on its developmental brand, NXT, in 2017. McIntyre achieved the NXT Championship and was then drafted to Raw. His heel run was well-received but ended with a 2020 face turn and feud with Brock Lesnar. McIntyre came full circle, the promise of his earlier prominence during his first WWE run was fulfilled when he won the WWE Championship from Lesnar at WrestleMania 36. McIntyre’s two WWE Championship runs made him a dominant presence during WWE’s pandemic era. Emulating his childhood hero Bret Hart, McIntyre became a reliable bout machine whose energy never seemed to flag despite the crowdless atmosphere of the ThunderDome. As WWE’s time in its bubble began to wind down, however, McIntyre’s character regrettably transitioned from an inspirational figure whose promos drew on McIntyre’s journey back to WWE after being released, to a caricature telling meandering yarns about the Loch Ness monster.

McIntyre was drafted to Friday Night SmackDown during WWE’s autumn draft and, since joining its roster, has mixed it up with Ricochet and frequent adversary Sheamus. His nascent tag team paired alongside Jeff Hardy is now dead in the water after Hardy’s recent release. However, no SmackDown storyline featuring McIntyre has tapped into his varied talents: he can be a frank, no-nonsense, relatable babyface who delivers match after match in an athletically credible and engaging style or a convincingly menacing and violent heel. McIntyre’s appearances outside WWE, such as at summer 2021’s Global Citizen Festival, have proven him a credible ambassador for the company outside the ring. In 2022, McIntyre could use a shedding of his “Scottish Warrior” persona and its trappings of kilt and ancestral sword, and another back to basics reinvention. Since all roads on the “blue brand” lead back to The Bloodline, a reprisal of McIntyre vs. Roman Reigns could be his ticket to WWE New Year’s redemption.

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Finn Balor

Reigns was Finn Balor’s antagonist when he debuted on SmackDown following the autumn 2021 draft. Balor’s return to the main roster after a stellar NXT run was greeted with high anticipation. The inaugural Universal Champion, it was assumed that Balor’s presence on SmackDown meant that his target was his former title, and the man who currently holds it, Roman Reigns. Reigns’s lengthy run is closing in on Lesnar’s record 507-day reign with every passing day. As unlikely as it is that this trajectory is going to end any time soon, Balor’s intriguing charisma and technically skilled in-ring style made him an exciting adversary for Reigns leading into the Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Balor’s time at NXT featured entertaining feuds with Karrion Kross and The Undisputed Era, but his program with Reigns ended in a disappointing and perplexing Extreme Rules bout that saw Balor’s “Demon” persona defeated due to a rope breaking underfoot as he was poised for a high flying spot. Since, he has faced several midcard defeats but bounced back with a string of recent victories and feud with Austin Theory on Raw.

Balor has pedigree in the pro wrestling industry, most notably as the first leader of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s enduring Bullet Club stable. Crowds always greet him with enthusiasm, and his NXT matches are proof enough that he is still quite capable of hard-hitting but gracefully staged action in-ring. While a shot at WWE’s top honors doesn’t seem to be in Balor’s destiny, another run at the Intercontinental Championship would put him in the sights of another NJPW legend, Shinsuke Nakamura. As Balor seeks his three-peat with the IC belt, his and Nakamura’s matches would be entertaining midcard bouts utilizing their mutually impressive abilities. It could also help them achieve WWE New Year’s redemption.

AJ Styles

AJ Styles

There is little that AJ Styles hasn’t accomplished in WWE. He now seems content to help along emerging talent like his former tag team partner, Omos. This is fair enough: Styles, who, like Balor, was Bullet Club leader in NJPW, signed to WWE in 2016 and had a rapid ascent. At this point, he is both a Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion. Following his breakup with Omos, anyone familiar with Styles’s in-ring skills, a balletic arsenal of daredevil tricks, can only hope that he has one more earnest singles run in him. While his case is slightly different than the others, insofar as Styles seems relatively content with his current role, while active as a tag team competitor, Styles the singles competitor was sorely missed in 2021. With his interest in putting over newer talent, this would make a 2022 run pitted against Austin Theory ideal.  Styles performed a similar role for Riddle in his earliest days on the main roster, and their encounters in-ring were always evenly matched and visually engaging. While Theory is currently the bane of Finn Balor’s existence, Styles would be better able to match Theory’s comedic flair, helping spotlight the young performer whom WWE is clearly heavily invested in.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network and Peacock.