Roman is the obvious choice here, mainly because he was already poised to take this spot in the next year or so. Does he have the best mic work? No. Does he have the best in-ring talent? No. He does have a large following, a great backing by the creative team, and a good presence. He also has the ability to put on great matches (HIAC 2015 vs. Wyatt), as well as pull good matches out of people who otherwise would put on ‘boring’ showings (Extreme Rules 2015 vs. Big Show). He is also an easy option because of the fact that if he fails to produce as a good champion, they can pick up where they left off with Rollins when he returns.
Ideal Feuds: Heel Ambrose, Babyface Ambrose (with heel Reigns), Undertaker, Kevin Owens, Heel Ziggler, John Cena
Ambrose is a bit of a wildcard choice, but a clear fan favorite. He can also serve a “placeholder” purpose, similar to Reigns, until Rollins comes back and wins it. Dean may have acted as Reigns’ sidekick as of late, he could skyrocket to the top with the proper push. Dean has consistently put on strong showings, especially on special events and PPVs. Considering WWE has taken chances on Miz, Khali, and Jack Swagger as champions, there is no reason why they should be hesitant on him.
Ideal Feuds: Heel (or face) Reigns, Bray Wyatt, John Cena, Kevin Owens
Love him or hate him, John Cena still is the face of the company. He clearly has the starpower to be the champion, and he can still put on strong showings against many people. The issue is that WWE truly needs to build more main event stars, and this is not the way to do it. If WWE is out of options, Cena can step in and win his 16th title. For the sake of building the future, let us hope that this truly is a last resort option.
Ideal Feuds: Undertaker, Reigns, Ambrose
What better way to send off the Deadman? Undertake becoming champion until WrestleMania can be a great way to give him one last hurrah. Due the nature of his part-time schedule, he has a plethora of superstars to work with. Brock out of dates, Jericho on tour with Fozzy, Sting is injured, and The Rock making 2 more movies was the reason for having Undertaker as the only part time star on this list. While crowning him champion works against the idea of building new stars, the man that would finally defeat Undertaker for the title would be given a huge credibility boost.
Ideal Feuds: Bray Wyatt, John Cena, Ambrose, Reigns
The eater of worlds has reemerged as a credible threat, mainly thanks to the reformation of the Wyatt Family. Similar to the Ministry, Bray can continue to hold the title and deliver speeches, while sending his henchmen to do the dirty work. Every new opponent will feel fresh, as they have to fight through Harper, Rowan, and Strowman to get to Bray (this is provided a new credible opponent can headline opposite Bray). Giving Bray the title may also give him that push he needs to make the transition from upper midcarder to full time main eventer (although this may also be achieved if his current feud with the Undertaker goes well enough). The downside is that it would be a hard sell with Bray as the headliner at WrestleMania 32. He has also faced Cena, Ambrose, and Reigns recently, so the main event stars may not feel as fresh.
Ideal Feuds: Undertaker
Sheamus is a scary thought as a champion for 6-9 months while Rollins is out. While Sheamus may be a good transition champion for a month, he does not carry what he once did a few years ago (which was not much to begin with). He does, however, carry the Money in the Bank, and creative could clearly go this way. The only upside to Sheamus as champ is the fact that he has not been involved in feuds with many of the top stars for some time.
Ideal Feuds: Ambrose, Reigns, Cesaro
Other (Ziggler, Cesaro, Big E, Del Rio, Balor etc.)
Unfortunately, the top midcard stars have not been built up enough to hold the biggest title in the company. While many of these men could put on classic 4-5 star showings, the star power is just not there. WWE has clearly failed on building some of these stars, so this will hopefully serve as a reality check that Vince needs to react and build a long-term plan instead of focusing on short gains.