It’s been a bad week for Seth Rollins.
On Wednesday, on the first stop of the WWE’s European tour, Rollins tore his ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus. Thursday, the WWE stripped Rollins of the WWE World Heavyweight title. They announced on their website that a new champion would be crowned at the Survivor Series. But rumors are swirling, and things are moving quickly; there’s even rumors that there might be a title change at the upcoming Monday Night Raw.
For WWE Creative, this is, no doubt, a complete and unmitigated disaster. Rollins is expected to be out for up to nine months (you don’t want to mess with knee injuries), and that means no Royal Rumble. No WrestleMania. The writers will have to chuck half of their storylines directly into the garbage. All the buildup over the last few months—of The Authority’s handpicked champion, of Triple H and Rollins’s weird father/son relationship, of Roman Reigns getting revenge on his former Shield brother—will have to be rewritten and rethought.
But as unexpected as this may be, and as terrible as this is for Rollins, there may be a silver lining after all. The WWE has been criticized (especially in the last several years) as being too predictable; the same people always seem to win, the old veterans still dominate the main event, and the champions are obviously hand-picked. Rollins’ unexpected injury creates the opportunity for spontaneity, and to create a new main event star—someone who can step up and “grab the brass ring.” Will the WWE do something predictable and safe, or will it be someone more unexpected?
Let’s handicap the field of main event stars, and predict who’s likely to be the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Daniel Bryan: 100-1
Weight: 210 pounds
Hails from: Aberdeeen, Wash.
Career highlights: World Heavyweight Champion, Intercontinental Champion, Money in the Bank winner
Here’s the outside swerve that we all hope will happen, but most likely won’t. Daniel Bryan is so beloved, so worshipped by marks and smarks alike, that all he has to do is show his face and the WWE Universe goes completely nuts. He certainly deserves the belt—he comes from the same indie background as Rollins, and technically, he’s nearly unmatched. The problem, as always, is his health and specifically his concussions. The WWE is reluctant to let Bryan back into the ring let alone wrestle in the main event. Bryan, however, says that his doctors have cleared him to wrestle—the only thing holding him back from a return is the WWE. Perhaps Rollins’s injury is enough to make the WWE pull the trigger. Probably not. But we can always dream.
Brock Lesnar: 50-1
Weight: 232 pounds
Hails from: Lucerne, Switzerland
Career highlights: U.S. Champion, Tag Team Champion, Andre the Giant Battle Royale Winner
Here’s the guy that actually should win the belt. Cesaro is scary strong and scary agile—his ‘King of Swing’ schtick is massively popular with the fans, and he even has his own grassroots ‘Cesaro section’ that cheers him at every appearance. From a technical standpoint, Cesaro is light years ahead of his peers—every match makes him look good, and makes his opponent look good. The problem? He’s been stuck in the upper mid-card for the last few months, and he tends to lose his big matches. It’s probably because the Swiss Superman, despite his in-ring prowess, cannot cut a promo or do mic work to save his life. He either needs to rehearse more, or get a loud mouthed manager, like Paul Heyman, to cover for his flaws. Cesaro winning the belt would be a welcome, but unexpected surprise.
Bray Wyatt: 20-1
Kevin Owens: 20-1
Dean Ambrose: 10-1
Alberto Del Rio: 5-1
Roman Reigns: 3-2
Hails from: Pensacola, Fla.
Career highlights: Tag Team Champion, Royal Rumble Winner
A few short months ago, Roman was getting booed in every arena he went to. He was the victim of the WWE’s impatience and poor booking— he was pushed too early and given too much, and the fans rebelled. But since WrestleMania, Roman has become more comfortable on the mic. He’s expanded his moveset. And slowly, but surely, he’s won over his critics. He’s had a number of compelling, solid matches in the last few months, especially his barn burners against Bray Wyatt.
Perhaps this isn’t the way Roman wanted it to happen—a Reigns win against Rollins would have concluded the Authority storyline, and would have brought the Shield full circle. But that’s in the past, and now would be a good time to give Reigns the strap, unless the WWE is waiting to crown him at WrestleMania. The crowd is on his side, he’s in the prime of his career, and everyone backstage seems to love the guy. He certainly deserves it.
Kevin Wong has written for Complex Media since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinjameswong.