The inherently brutal nature of the wrestling business deems that every now and then — and more often than not — a superstar will get injured; that’s just a part of the deal. Seth Rollins, ever since his days on the indie circuit, has wrestled a high-impact, high-flying style, and perhaps it was just a matter of time before he got placed on the bench due to injury. With a blown-out knee, Rollins — the now former WWE Champion — will have to sit on the sidelines as a fresh face (hopefully) takes the crown and runs with it on the road to WrestleMania.
At Survivor Series, WWE is holding a one-night tournament to determine the next man to hold the most coveted prize in sports-entertainment. The premier wrestling organization has been down this road before, holding a similar tournament in 1998 during that year’s Survivor Series. The tourney resulted in a who’s who of Hall of Famers battling for the championship, and a swerve ending culminated with The Rock holding the title at the end of the broadcast. It’s one of the best PPVs of the Attitude Era, and WWE has a shot at replicating that success with a bevy of underutilized talent looking for a shot at greatness. But, who will it be?
For many, their money is on Roman Reigns. The Samoan beast had a standout match with Brock Lesnar at this year’s WrestleMania, and he proved that he can excel in a big match environment. But he has some factors working against him. Most notably, his mic work is far from stellar, and his in-ring work is just not there yet in terms of complete storytelling. To put the championship on him at this juncture in his career would be a misstep, much in the same way Randy Orton’s first title reign in 2004 was a mistake. Reigns was due to face Rollins for the title at this PPV, so expect him to possibly make it to the finals or at least, the final four.
Another interesting prospect is Bray Wyatt. Wyatt doesn’t always win his matches, but he has a ton of momentum going for him after he and his “family” took out The Undertaker and Kane. Wyatt is one of the best workers in WWE right now, both on the mic and in the ring. What he lacks in technique, he more than makes up for with his storytelling prowess — he’s cut from he same cloth as Mick Foley, but with more athleticism. The only problem with this possibility is that Wyatt looks to be headed for a collision course with The Undertaker, possibly at Survivor Series. It’s unlikely that Taker will be in the tournament, meaning that a battle between the two will have to take place outside of it.
Other possibilities include John Cena and Brock Lesnar, but they’re long shots, with Cena taking time off right now, and Lesnar working a partial schedule. They both could, of course, come in for one or two matches at the most, helping to propel whoever it is that might win the tourney. For instance, a Reigns-Lesnar match in the semis with Reigns coming out on top, would do wonders for the unpredictability of the finals.
For me, though, my money is on Kevin Owens. Owens has proven potential, and his trilogy with top star John Cena was magnificent, resulting in some of the best matches of 2015. If WWE really wants to put the strap on a heel — which is, in my opinion the best thing for business — they don’t get much better than Owens outside of Rollins. Owens is not only a great hand in the ring, he can sell a feud in his promos, and his ability to bring out the best in his opponents makes him a star worth putting the strap on. Take a look at his work in last week’s four-way bout with Alberto Del Rio, Dolph Ziggler, and Roman Reigns. The final sequence with Reigns was over, and it’s clear that fans would love to see that match-up between the two young studs once more. I say put them in the finals, and watch a new star ascend.
WWE has other options, as well. Dean Ambrose is a fantastic talent, and he’s one of the few babyfaces who would do well with the championship. A build-up to an eventual rematch with Rollins after WrestleMania, perhaps at SummerSlam, would be a ticket-seller, as their battle at Hell in the Cell last year was a violent spectacle. Alberto Del Rio is another talent who deserves to be in the final four of the tournament; his work since returning has been topnotch, and he knows how to play to the audience. He has the look, the skills, and the mic work to be a top guy once again, and his quick dispatch of Cena for the United States title has given him a load of momentum. The wild cards in this are Cesaro and Samoa Joe. (Sorry, Dolph. You’re just not WWE Championship material.) Cesaro can “go” — he’s an impressive worker, but he needs a better gimmick, or find his footing a bit more in the role he’s been given. Outside of Owens, I would love to see a heel Samoa Joe go to the finals of the tournament. He could play a great foil to Reigns or Ambrose, and perhaps as the new enforcer of The Authority, it would be a similar role to what The Bossman did in the 1998 Survivor Series, whose task was to take out Steve Austin.
We’ll have to wait to see what WWE does with their championship tournament, but if they play their cards right, when Rollins returns next year, he’ll have a smorgasbord of top-tier heels and faces he could engage with. There’s silver lining in WWE’s top star getting injured. Hopefully the powers behind gorilla position can find it.