If Cody Rhodes didn’t beat Roman Reigns, then for God’s sake, who will? That was a question on a lot of our minds following WrestleMania 39. Which WWE Superstars are in the best possible positions right now to be the next in line as champions following the biggest show of the year?
I wanted to wait until the immediate fallout of the first 2 episodes of Raw and the first episode of SmackDown were out of the way before getting into this. In my mind, the WWE Draft was going to be announced and several new contenders would be set up.
Some of that did play out. Unfortunately, a few of the championships still don’t have any solid announced direction going forward. That just means we’ll have even less of an idea of where WWE Creative’s head is at—but hey, who said predictions need to be easy? If that were the case, I would have gotten my Rhodes over Reigns pick correct, right?!
So let’s try to predict who the next champions will be—whether they come in the next few weeks or all the way until WrestleMania 40 or onward!
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship – Current Champion Roman Reigns
Boy, when I had this on my list of articles to write up a few weeks ago, I wholly expected the primary hook of this to be “Who will dethrone Cody Rhodes?” and not “Who, if anyone, can beat Roman Reigns?”
Without going too deeply into how much I was disappointed with the finale of WrestleMania 39, and how I don’t think WWE has it in them to pull off a better ending to it than that (be it with Cody or with someone else), and how I’m afraid of a scenario where Reigns gets injured and has to vacate the championship and NOBODY beats him…let’s just put all that aside.
I do think there’s a strong chance WWE had 4 goals in mind with the Rhodes loss, which are:
- To swerve people for the sake of it. Gotcha! Unpredictability points! As that gets people talking, and they like their whole “whether you boo or cheer, as long as you’re making noise” philosophy.
- Cody losing makes him an underdog and they are playing a risky game, hoping fans don’t lose interest, but instead, become even more rabid to see him win and enjoy it more, to avoid running into the scenario where as soon as he wins the belt, people turn on him.
- They probably do want Roman Reigns to reach 1000 days.
- If Roman drops the belt at King & Queen of the Ring, on that 1000 day mark, then that can be a big negotiating tactic for Saudi Arabia to continue to sponsor events, and since WWE cares more about pure profit margins than anything else these days, maybe that was a driving force above all else.
Therefore, I do think there’s a chance—not a guarantee, but a chance—Rhodes wins this title at King & Queen of the Ring.
A lot of people are thinking there’s a chance he wins it in Madison Square Garden, but that’s a July 7 SmackDown show and I just can’t picture that happening on SmackDown of all places. Maybe at SummerSlam, but why? Perhaps at WrestleMania 40, but that’s asking a lot to tell the fans to just keep waiting a full year each time you want to tell each chapter of a particular story.
I don’t think The Rock is beating Reigns at WrestleMania 40. But I do think if Rhodes isn’t champion by the time WrestleMania 40 goes down, then that will be proof that WWE has never had anyone firmly in mind to beat Reigns whatsoever and that they don’t look at this as an endgame of “making someone by having them beat Roman”, but instead, “the longer we keep the belt on Roman, that’s all that matters, and even if he loses by just relinquishing the belt, mission accomplished.”
My Prediction: Cody Rhodes or bust
Raw Women’s Championship – Current Champion Bianca Belair | SmackDown Women’s Championship – Current Champion Rhea Ripley
I have to group these two championships together because I think one title’s direction greatly influences the other. On top of that, the draft is going to play a huge factor in what they do with these belts, even though the Royal Rumble can always switch things up.
The long and short of where I’m going with this is that I think Charlotte Flair is going to be the one to take the Raw Women’s Championship off Bianca Belair (after Flair moves to Raw for the draft). To coincide with that, I think we’re going to see Becky Lynch and Seth Rollins move over to SmackDown in the draft, and we’ll see Lynch face Ripley in an elongated feud during the summer/fall.
By the time we get to WrestleMania 40, I think we’re either looking at that being the Belair vs. Flair match, or a rematch between the two, or we see Belair move over to challenge Ripley. Meanwhile, the other challenger for either Raw Women’s Champion Flair or SmackDown Women’s Champion Ripley will be Raquel Rodriguez.
Raquel may be a leap for some people, considering all WWE has done with her is perpetually give her short tag team title runs (at this rate, she’s going to win that belt with EVERYONE) and her NXT Women’s Championship reign. But I think she’s a strong contender to get a push over this year and win the Royal Rumble.
I could see Rodriguez vs. Flair being a story of two second-generation wrestlers. Ripley vs. Rodriguez is because not only are they two of the tallest on the roster, but they’re also close friends, and I’m sure Ripley would love to drop the belt to Raquel eventually.
Where this may be all thrown out the window is if WWE wants Lynch to be champion. Then, she’s the top contender to beat Ripley, and I wouldn’t have any clue who would be next in line after The Man.
My Prediction: Charlotte Flair beats Bianca Belair, Raquel Rodriguez beats Rhea Ripley
Raw Tag Team Championship / SmackDown Tag Team Championship – Current Champions Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn
I don’t think WWE has the slightest idea what they want to do with these titles. Just look at how they haven’t changed the belts for all these years to give them side plates. They do not care about the tag team division beyond just some passing, fleeting moments here and there.
The Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn win at WrestleMania was for the story, not for the championship. Guaranteed, WWE has not bothered to sit down and plot out the next two sets of champions to know where they want this story to go. They’re just playing it week-to-week with the fallout from The Usos and continuing that, milking it for as long as they can until they’re forced to make a decision of what comes next.
Keep in mind that the next champions may very well be The Usos again. Just because they dropped the belts to Owens and Zayn doesn’t mean they can’t win them back. And depending on how strong they want The Bloodline to remain, and how long they plan on having Roman Reigns keep his titles, we could certainly be looking at a complete reset in a few weeks or months with WWE thinking “Why don’t we do the same exact journey heading into Mania 40?”
I’m hoping we don’t get a copy/paste. Frankly, I’m hoping we get new title belts in a few weeks at the draft (because I hate these designs) and a clear direction of even what this championship is all about. Because not only could they split the titles again to Raw and SmackDown separate, they could also decide to keep the unified concept and just rebrand these the WWE Tag Team Championships—one title for each champion.
I’m going to venture a guess and say that if the WWE Draft takes place before Roman Reigns drops his titles, we are getting unified tag team champions going forward. If Cody beats Roman beforehand, then we’ll get 2 sets of world champions and 2 sets of tag team champions.
Since I anticipate the draft will happen after Backlash, rather than after King and Queen of the Ring, I’m expecting unified tag team champions to be the direction and for Owens and Zayn to be cross-branded champions.
With that in mind, we can look at any tag team on Raw or SmackDown as potentials to dethrone them. Once you rule out the teams like Maximum Male Models that aren’t to be taken seriously, and a few other teams I just don’t think are on the radar right now to beat a babyface team (like The New Day), I think we can narrow down the options to The Usos, Imperium, The Judgment Day, #DIY, The O.C. (doubtful), Pretty Deadly, The Creed Brothers, The Brawling Brutes, and the dreaded Vince McMahon special, aka “two random singles guys who team up for the sole purpose of splitting up down the line, aren’t given a tag team name, and that’s about it.”
Right now, April 11th, I’m leaning more toward Imperium. Don’t ask me why. It’s just what my gut is telling me.
My Prediction: Imperium’s Ludwig Kaiser and Giovanni Vinci
Intercontinental Championship – Current Champion Gunther
Speaking of Imperium, who has it in them to take down The Ring General? If Sheamus and Drew McIntyre couldn’t get it done, there aren’t many tough guys left on the roster who can take him.
No, I don’t think it will be Brock Lesnar. I do think Gunther vs. Lesnar might be something we see down the line in the next 12 months (maybe at Mania 40), but I don’t think the Intercontinental Championship will pass over to Lesnar’s hands in that feud.
I’ll cut right to the chase on this and say the only people who can possibly beat Gunther are established stars like Seth Rollins, Bobby Lashley, and maybe Matt Riddle. Even someone as big as Braun Strowman has had his time in the sun in a way that I think WWE would use him to put Gunther over, rather than the opposite.
Rollins beating Gunther doesn’t feel right to me. Riddle beating Gunther also feels a little odd, particularly since Riddle is going to need to earn some brownie points after his absence. Plus, if Riddle wins that belt, doesn’t he just stay stagnant as a perennial midcarder?
I’m looking at Lashley with a hyper focus. He’s huge, right at that level where he can win the IC title and put a spotlight on that, but is a bona fide main-eventer, so he upgrades that while also being a reasonable person who can beat Gunther. And since I don’t see Lashley winning the world title any time soon, this may be his consolation prize.
Bron Breakker was one of my top picks up until his heel turn. Now, I think that pretty much rules him out.
My Prediction: Bobby Lashley
United States Championship – Current Champion Austin Theory
Theory would be one of my top picks to win King of the Ring if he wasn’t already the United States Championship. Then again, he could still drop that title before winning the crown, much like he did the last time before he won Money in the Bank.
This one isn’t quite as straightforward as the Lashley pick in my mind. There are more options to beat Theory. He beat John Cena, which is great for his list of accolades, but he still hasn’t been catapulted into an “unbeatable” level like Gunther. If WWE decides one week that it would be funny for Theory to drop the title to Rick Boogs, it can definitely happen.
Chad Gable winning the belt would be awesome, but I don’t think that’s happening. Shinsuke Nakamura is another I would pay attention to, but I don’t think is happening. Matt Riddle is again, a case of going back to square one. If Randy Orton were healthy, he could make sense, but I wouldn’t bank on that by any chance.
I would love to see a babyface LA Knight take the title, but that requires both of them being on the same brand AND Knight turning face AND being their next choice for the title AND nobody beating him to the punch.
Santos Escobar is another I’d love to see get a run with this belt. Escobar is great. Simply put.
But I’m keeping my eyes on Johnny Gargano here. I think their previous association in The Way in NXT could go a long way in building the base for their feud. Considering Johnny Wrestling’s in-ring skill set, having “the workhorse title” of a midcard championship is something to cross off the list, for sure. My preference would be the Intercontinental Championship if I were in his shoes, but I don’t think Gargano’s beating Gunther.
The draft could completely change my mind about this with someone like Cameron Grimes coming in hot, for instance. But until then, I’ll go with Gargano.
My Prediction: Johnny Gargano
Women’s Tag Team Championship – Current Champions Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez
There is no way WWE had these two in mind to win the titles next. Absolutely not. I’m convinced this is a stall and a detour from the original plan.
Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler were totally going to win the belts from Becky Lynch and Lita (well, Trish Stratus—I think that was the plan from the start to do something with Trish defending the belts). But since both of them are injured, WWE likely figured they should transition the titles to Morgan and Rodriguez for the time being, allow the Becky and Trish and Lita thing to play out, and that they’ll come back around to Rousey and Baszler when they’re healthy.
So that’s what is going to happen. The moment they get cleared to compete, we’ll start to see this feud heat up, and the first match they have, Ronda and Shayna will capture the belts.
My Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler
Who do you think will be the next champions? Drop your predictions in the comments below!
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