Who will bring about the fall of Roman’s Empire?
With Roman’s reign sneaking up on two full calendar years, it is of course worth wondering if WWE has an endgame in mind. Admittedly, I have not cared much for speculating on its end for most of this title tyranny; Roman has been one of the best things in all of wrestling, regardless of company. His work has been unimpeachable.
That said, it does feel like a worm is turning. Roman is no longer the champion of but one brand; he is the king of both shows. He’s reducing his workload and has only defended the title, what, once since WrestleMania? And he’s just not present on every show like a champion needs to be in this era. And WWE seems stuck in a rut and is going BACK to the Brock Lesnar story for him, even though that felt like it had a definitive ending at ‘Mania this year.
So I’m thinking of walking back my previous belligerence that Reigns should reign until WrestleMania 40. That worked a few months ago, but as we move into the summer, it seems less and less ideal. To me, at least. I don’t want one megachamp who defends infrequently. I know there are arguments in favor it (the champ should be a spectacle you don’t get tired of!), but… they don’t sway me.
So today, I thought I’d take a look at some of the most likely (and other!) names to unseat Roman as the top dog in WWE.
Almost as soon as Roman won the Universal Title, Reigns Vs Rock has been bandied about as a WrestleMania main event. Well, both WrestleMania 37 and 38 passed without that materializing. But SURELY it will happen at WrestleMania 39, right?!
I mean… maybe? But the further out we get, the less likely this match seems. After all, it’s not like Rocky’s Hollywood career is going anywhere but up these days, and studios paying him huge sums aren’t going to want him risking his health in a wrestling match. And if The Rock steps up, presumably wins The Rumble, and dethrones Roman… then what? We STILL have a guy who isn’t sticking around since he’s a 50 year old celebrity. Honestly, I could only see Rock getting the title off Roman if he’s going to drop it right back to him. So… does that even count as ending this run?
COULD Rock do it: I’ll give him a 10% chance. His status makes it unlikely, but WWE could back up the Brinks truck for the sake of “Please, ANY publicity better than what we are getting right now!”
SHOULD Rock do it: He’s one of my all-time favorites and has brought me a ton of joy. That said? 0%. Rock winning would create more issues than it would solve.
This seems the most likely, right? He’s weirdly on schedule to miss RIGHT UP TO the Royal Rumble, where he’d blow the roof off as a “surprise” entrant [that we all see coming]. He was a big get for WWE when he left the company he co-created and became synonymous with, and the fans were thrilled to have him back. They had him go 3-0 over Seth Rollins in PPV matches to show they are all in on the guy.
So, seriously? What’s the downside here? Is it that he’s TOO obvious? Is it that WWE won’t want it to look like an AEW guy can come right in and dominate their own champion? Cody never even won the AEW title, so the optics of his strolling into WWE and defeating their unbeatable champ are questionable. And we know how fragile WWE’s ego can be in regards to these things.
COULD Cody do it? Yeah, he definitely could. Smart money would be on this right now. The timing, the fan fervor, the publicity, the whole idea of showing AEW guys with contracts coming up that WWE will treat them well. I’ll go as high as… 35%.
SHOULD Cody do it? I mean… probably? I like him, but I actually enjoyed his Pre-Stardust work more than his NJPW/AEW stuff. He is talented and really deserves a shot with a world title. 30%
It always comes back to Brock. Every time you think Brock has finally and officially handed the reigns over to a new The Guy… he still ends up in the title picture for years and years. He’s put over Rollins, Drew, and Reigns, but he is still The Beast of WWE.
You really just can’t count this out, right? Brock was never going to end The Streak… until he did. He was never going to squash John Cena… until he did. He was never going to maintain a world championship status after making studs out of Seth and McIntyre… until he did. He is never going to go right back over Reigns when The Tribal Chief finally started consistently getting the better of him…
Until he does?
COULD Brock do it? At least 15%. Come on. Would you REALLY be surprised? He’s WWE’s security blanket.
SHOULD Brock do it? 0%. No, he shouldn’t. And I love Norse Cowboy Brock. But… move on from the title picture already.
Who is pretty much the ONE MAN Roman could not defeat during this title run? In a PPV Title match, no less?
Seth freakin’ Rollins.
Seth has ALWAYS had Roman’s number for world titles. WrestleMania 31. Money In The Bank 2016. The Royal Rumble this year (even though he walked out empty-handed; he DID win the bout). I genuinely thought after the Rumble that we were on the verge of a solid Seth ‘Tweener Run and his inevitable defeat of Reigns.
Then… the Cody feud happened. And I know Seth is a guy who can eat losses like SweetTarts, but more than just looking like a loser, he looked sadistically evil. Whatever quasi-heroic leanings he had for a few months there are gone now.
COULD Seth do it? This would be much higher 6 months ago. Now? 5% chance. It feels like his window is all but sealed shut.
SHOULD Seth do it? Hey, this is MY list, and this is MY favorite story. It’s 2022. We don’t need a heroic babyface to take down Roman. We just need his Kryptonite. Seth uncrowns Reigns before next spring, and we can STILL have Cody win the Rumble for a blood feud at ‘Mania. 35%
We’ve been building to this at a snail’s pace ever since Drew came to Smackdown. He has interacted with Roman. He has fought him in tag matches. And don’t forget: Reigns needed interference to beat Drew a few years ago at Survivor Series. Drew is a huge guy with loads of talent and good talking skills. He’d be a wonderful face of the company. And he still feels fresh since his WWE Title tenure seems like it was 30 years ago already. Maybe Brock was just brought in to slow the collision course these two were on?
But doesn’t it feel like almost irreversible damage has been done to Drew in the last year-plus? The Lashley feud made him look like a schmuck. The Corbin feud was an enormous waste of everyone except Madcap Moss’ time. Sure he would still feel fresh as a title guy, but he also feels like JUST a guy now. We’ve seen WWE give people one spell at the top and then sink them to mediocrity before.
COULD Drew do it? Look at Drew. Remember his journey to and reign with the WWE belt. We’d all buy this guy as The Man again. WWE knows that. 20%
SHOULD Drew do it? I’ll stick with 20%. He’s a damn good option, but not the BEST option. Like I said… we’d all accept Drew if he did it, but he feels like he’s been spinning his wheels for SO LONG at this point.
JIMMY OR JEY USO
Hey, remember when these two each felt like they were going to have a solid, dignified singles run by turning their nose up at Roman? How Jey challenged his cousin with his impassioned “Which one are you?” speech and took Reigns to the limit in an I Quit match?
Remember how The Tribal Chief had to viciously attack an injured Jimmy to win that I Quit match? And how when Jimmy came back healthy, he told Jey and Roman he wasn’t their bitch?
If you do, congratulations! Because WWE doesn’t.
COULD one of them do it? 0%. I mean… let’s be real here.
SHOULD one of them do it? 0%. They were probably never higher than, what, 5% at the absolute best, but damn did WWE just crap the bed on the stories here.
I really just wanted to complain about that some more.
Why not? Bron has been a stallion since entering NXT, and he has dominated the brand aside from that weird fever dream of a Dolph Ziggler reign. He’s big, has the pedigree, and is obviously a star of the future. Wouldn’t Breakker going over The Big Dog feel like a true passing of the torch moment?
The obvious obstacle here is that WWE hates the idea of passing a torch. They hate their own younger, less exposed names with a weird and fiery passion. Breakker is going to come to the main roster and have a dues paying feud with Happy Corbin for, like, 5 months. We all know this. And then he’ll fart around the midcard for a while to prove he really “wants it” or whatever. Breakker is the WrestleMania 40 option. But he isn’t realistically going to be put over Roman before that… at the earliest.
COULD Bron do it? Right now I’ll give him 0% odds at doing it within the year. But the longer Roman has the belt, the more this will increase. If Reigns still has the belt after WrestleMania 39, this number skyrockets.
SHOULD Bron do it? Yes. Yes, Bron SHOULD do it. Others should do it more, but if WWE really wants to play a waiting game, this is your man. 10%
Look, aside from the Usos, I’m including anyone with a realistic non-zero chance in either category. Obviously Big E had a disastrously pathetic run with the WWE Title AND is coming back from a broken neck. And at 36, he’s not old for a main eventer, but he’s no young upstart, either.
But… come on. The feel good story here, guys. I’m not saying it’s likely or even possible, but if BIG E returned at the Royal Rumble? That would outpop Cody. That might outpop ANYTHING. Fans LOVE E, and his tragic accident this year will only increase that.
COULD Big E do it? 5%. We know WWE does think highly enough of him to put a world title on him, and that was BEFORE he earned the sympathy vote. The question is… literally COULD he come back to do it?
SHOULD he do it? I’m going to make E happy and give him another 5% here. He loves 5’s. In my opinion? A billion percent he should! But I’m way out of the loop on his health timetable… if one has even been established.
Bobby Lashley already has an incredibly rare clean pinfall victory over The Big Dog. He’s massive, a realistic champion, and is much more entertaining as a face than he was as a heel.
He’s also on the wrong side of 45 years old and just had an extended run at the top that felt pretty “meh”.
COULD Lashley do it? Well, yeah. 5%. He’s a main eventer and a talented guy who can and has believably beaten Reigns. Now that he’s a hero, I could see them putting The Hurt Lock against The Guillotine.
SHOULD Lashley do it? I would absolutely hate to see it. I thought his run as WWE champ was insufferable and made Raw less watchable than usual. Your mileage may vary, but for me? 0%. Go younger, not older.
AND NOW FOR ONE DARK HORSE OUTSIDE PICK
If they were going to pull this trigger, surely they would have by now, right?
Roman started this title reign by ending The Fiend’s in a match in which Reigns pinned… Braun Strowman. And then Wyatt just moved brands and let it go. And then HE was let go.
And he has mysteriously done nothing in the public eye ever since. No AEW. No Impact. No NJPW. He hasn’t been doing TV or movies. He’s just… gone.
Is it possible WWE has him on a retainer of sorts? They had the dude absolutely humiliate John Cena at WrestleMania; you don’t do that with a guy you have nothing for a year later. Wyatt or The Fiend or whatever would return and IMMEDIATELY go straight to the main event. He’s established as hell. And he has a reason to get a shot at the belt he was never pinned or tapped out for.
But for them to have not brought Wyatt back yet means either I’m delusional and they WON’T, or they have had this two+ year plan in place from the start, which… I doubt.
You know what, though? It’s this weird niggling in the back of my head that won’t go away. So until Bray officially ends up elsewhere and out of WWE’s reach… I’ll never NOT think this is a possibility…
Those are my figures, though. What about yours? Who are your top WILL BEAT/SHOULD BEAT contenders to end this ironclad grip on the WWE Title? Let me know in the comments!
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