Starting tonight on RAW, WWE will hold a series of matches that will culminate in a one on one match for WWE’s new World Heavyweight Championship and Night of Champions later this month. WWE revealed the 12 competitors that will vie for the prize and in turn, serve as the new world champion or RAW’s brand, helping to fill a vacancy that has been rather blatant since Roman Reigns unified the WWE and Universal Titles at WrestleMania last year. With that, here are the 12 candidates ranked in terms of who I believe can, should and will become the new world champion.
12. Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is a three-time world champion and is a WWE Hall of Famer, so there’s really no need to put a new world championship on him. There’s also no way that even if it was a remote possibility that his son, Dominik, and the Judgement Day would allow that to happen even if it was feasible. Rey Mysterio’s days of being a challenger for the world championship are more or less numbered, so he really is here in this tournament to provide a veteran presence.
11. The Miz
This isn’t because The Miz isn’t world-championship caliber. He’s a two-time WWE Champion and a two-time Grand-Slam Champion. The issue here is that The Miz has taken on a completely different role in his career at the moment. He’s no longer the WrestleMania main eventer. Rather, he is the savvy veteran that will be called in to do many of the little things to keep WWE programming going. Whether it’s hosting WrestleMania and putting over Snoop Dogg, or tearing it up with a high-quality match like he did with Seth Rollins a few weeks ago, The Miz has become a jack of all trades. He doesn’t need to win the world championship to show his worth. It would be nice, but he won’t be the world champion any time soon.
Sheamus hasn’t held a world championship in nearly 8 years, so he’s likely to not win back world championship gold any time soon. It also doesn’t help that he is currently drafted to SmackDown (although the fact that SmackDown superstars are in this tournament probably makes this a moot point). Sheamus is not too far removed from an absolutely incredible program over the Intercontinental Championship against RAW’s Gunther, and I believe his sights are still firmly set on that missing championship from his Hall of Fame resume. Another veteran used to fill in a slot.
9. Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke is actually a pretty accomplished superstar in WWE, with multiple reigns with the United States and Intercontinental Championships as well as a tag team championship and Royal Rumble victory. However, Shinsuke’s run at the main event scene has not fared well for him. There was that dreadful WWE Championship feud with Jinder Mahal in 2017, and then a feud with AJ Styles the following year that culminated in essentially who could kick who harder in the nuts. A run back at the world championship may be what he needs to reinvigorate his career, but I’m not expecting that any time soon.
8. Damian Priest
I don’t think Damian Priest has gotten nearly enough credit for the work that he’s done for the past year, involving both his work as the muscle of the Judgement Day, and even his recent feud with Bad Bunny. I personally think he has world championship potential. He has the size, he has the look, and I believe he has built legitimacy. It’s only a matter of whether or not WWE has the nerve to actually pull the trigger on such a move. I don’t think it’s going to happen in the immediate future, but based on his recent work, I wouldn’t be surprised if the time for him becoming world champion comes sooner than later.
7. Bobby Lashley
It’s been a weird last couple of years for Bobby Lashley. From a forgettable feud with Brock Lesnar to having a WrestleMania show taken off the card because of an untimely injury to Bray Wyatt, Lashley still remains a dominant force in the WWE, and doesn’t need a championship in order to prove as much. However, considering it wasn’t that long ago since he was technically world champion, I’m not expecting him to win. There’s also the matter of the fact that he’s still actively feuding with Bronson Reed, and if Lashley has a chance at becoming world champion, best believe Reed will be there to screw him right out of it.
6. Austin Theory
Austin Theory is already the current United States champion, so he’s practically guaranteed not to win, but you can never discount a young, Vince McMahon favorite who’s been a lengthy United States Champion as long as he has. I suspect he’ll still hold the title strong will into the summer and represent SmackDown that way, but Theoy has come a long way since his main roster call-up. He’s scored high profile victories over the likes of Bobby Lashley, Seth Rollins, Edge and John Cena over John Cena at WrestleMania. He may not currently be in line to become world champion, but best believe that he’s on a world championship trajectory.
5. AJ Styles
AJ Styles is fresh off an ankle injury that kept him out of WrestleMania, and is currently looking to hopefully re-insert himself back to the world title scene, a place that he had not been able to occupy for a quite a few years now. Styles has since become a Grand Slam Champion since his last run as world champion, so AJ has proven that he does not need to hold a world championship to make himself relevant. He’s made a career out of delivering high quality performances in the ring. I’ll be honest in saying I much rather prefer him as a singles competitor as opposed to the leader of a faction, but a motivated AJ is capable of doing anything. I certainly wouldn’t mind him running it back with Roman Reigns again in a program for the championship.
4. Finn Balor
Having Finn this high feels like a little bit of a gambit considering he’s coming off a feud against Edge that saw him lose more often than winning. But as the leader (?) of Judgement Day, that has to count for something, doesn’t it? I believe the Judgement Day is fine in their current incarnation, but Rhea Ripley being the only one showing that they can win a big match without any help doesn’t feel right. In addition, we’re approaching 7 years after Finn’s last world championship reign, a one day run with the Universal Championship run cut short courtesy of an untimely injury.
3. Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes would be 1 if it wasn’t for his current predicament. He escaped Brock Lesnar at Backlash, and he vows to finish the story. However, finishing the story doesn’t feel complete if he doesn’t climb the mountain that is the Tribal Chief himself. For Cody, the World Heavyweight Championship would be nice. It’s the title his father once held for a few seconds before the infamous “Dusty Finish” took place. However, I’m sure he wants redemption for WrestleMania. He’s RAW’s top face so he’s here by default. But wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t come away with this one.
No he doesn’t need it, and yes he’s close to retirement. But he’s still the most decorated superstar in WWE history and is still performing at a high level. He’s also pointed to retiring in the near future, so there’s not much time left for another world title reign. You have to ask yourself, however…would it not be appropriate for him to win the world championship he never lost when he retired the first time?
1. Seth Rollins
Let’s call a spade a spade. This is Seth’s championship to lose. He routinely performs in high quality capacities, he’s immensely over with the crowd, and he’s long overdue for another world title run. He’s carried RAW since Roman’s dominant run, and it’s time he gets formally acknowledged for it. See what I did there?
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