by BROCK KOLLER
Seth Rollins was on top of the world. He was main-eventing every Raw, Smackdown, and pay per view. He was feuding with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show and trading barbs with Jonathan Coachman on SportsCenter.
Ever since WrestleMania, Rollins embodied what Triple H has called him the past few weeks – the man.
He brought new life into the WWE. It was no longer a John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar world.
Rollins was making a name for himself while bringing a fresh face to the top of the card. But then this past week, the man’s nonstop ride to supremacy hit a roadblock, one not created by a backstage writer or promoter Vince McMahon, but by an injury that will reportedly put him out of action for anywhere from 6 to 9 months.
It’s safe to say the disappointment felt by not only Rollins, but wrestling fans across the world has been immeasurable. Rollins has been the MVP of WWE for the past two years, even carrying the main heel role last fall when Lesnar was carrying the WWE World Heavyweight Championship off screen for months.
He was the antithesis of Lesnar. Fighting on every show. Every show. Whether it was a live event, a Smackdown, or a WWE Network event, the WWE champion was on the card.
Rollins’ absence will undoubtedly be felt. It will be big a hole to fill. While we all wish Rollins a speedy recovery and hope when he returns he can regain the coveted spotlight that is rightfully his, the old adage of 'this is a business and the show must go on' is apt.
Along with the news of Rollins’ injury, WWE announced there will be tournament at Survivor Series to determine a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
WWE has a decision to make. Do they go early with their plans they had after Rollins eventually lost the title? Do they throw a curve and crown a champion who has never tasted gold before? Or do they go back to the familiar and award a wrestler who they already have faith in?
There are many different routes the Survivor Series could go. Here are just 10 of them.
As you will notice a couple resemble the last time the WWE title was up for grabs in a tournament at Survivor Series. In 1998, WWE held their Deadly Games tournament. Going into the show, many believed Vince McMahon was prepping Mankind Mick Foley to be his champion. But in a swerve, newly turned fan favorite The Rock turned heel again, aligning with McMahon, and went from the People’s Champion to the Corporate Champion. Remember the Corporate Elbow?
Here’s where I see this tournament going:
1. Heel Roman Reigns. The most interesting characters WWE has created in the PG era have to be The Shield. They were cool. They were different. They were great wrestlers. With one of the former Shield members out, the top 2 candidates to replace him as champion are his former allies. In this case, Roman Reigns. WWE’s apparent heir to John Cena’s throne is certain to become champion soon. But if he is given the title now, he must turn heel and join The Authority. That’s it. If he becomes champion as a face, he will not get over and just anger the majority of ticketholders. It would be the same outcome as when Stone Cold Steve Austin turned heel at WrestleMania X-Seven. It didn’t work. Reigns would have to beat Ambrose in a vicious way and align himself with Triple H ala The Rock and McMahon in 1998. This would make him get booed – but for all the right reasons.
2. Heel Dean Ambrose. If it’s not a heel Roman Reigns defeating a face Dean Ambrose, it’s a heel Ambrose defeating a face Reigns. Ambrose could finally snap and say he’s had enough being Reigns’ happy-go-lucky, insane buddy. He deserves better and Triple H has promised him better. It would give more sympathy to Reigns on his way to his much-believed WrestleMania title victory. And The Authority will have their new man, so they can continue to cut 20 minute promos to open up Raw every week.
3. Sheamus. Let’s say Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns fight in the finals. It’s a competitive match. Back and forth. Both men give it their all. But a Superman punch later, Reigns is your new WWE Champ. Wait? A face Roman Reigns champion? But I thought…hold up, hold up. It’s not over yet. You see Reigns is spent. Cue Mr. Money In the Bank with The Authority. Triple H pedigrees Ambrose to keep him out of the equation. Sheamus brogue kicks the new champion, covers Reigns, and we have a new WWE champ from Ireland. Sheamus has been champion before, but not recently. He has the briefcase and I can’t see any other time he would be able to use it and not have fans say, ‘No please, go away.’ If it’s a not a heel turn from Reigns or Ambrose, it’s a Sheamus MITB run-in.
4. Rusev. I have to hand it to the guys at Busted Open on SiriusXM for bringing this idea to my brain. This is genius. Rusev needs to be reinvented and to go through a tournament and demolish four or five guys to do it would bring him back to that monster status he was at prior to WrestleMania 31. Plus, we can tie up this Rusev-Lana–Ziggler engagement storyline once and for all. In the semi-finals, Dolph Ziggler could meet Rusev. In the middle of the match, Lana could come down the ring dressed in her Ziggler 1980s jean attire and side with Ziggler, clapping for him. Ziggler would look confused and say to her ‘I thought you were engaged.’ Lana could climb up on the apron and say it was a misunderstanding. She would then kiss Ziggler and then slap him in the face, resulting in Rusev giving Ziggler the Accolade for the win and make it to the finals vs. Reigns where he would be managed by a once again dressed in a red suit Lana. After maybe a misunderstanding between Reigns and buddy Ambrose, Rusev becomes your champ and monster heel.
5. Kevin Owens. This past Thursday on Smackdown, Owens fought Ambrose. During the match, while applying a headlock to Ambrose, the current Intercontinental Champion exclaimed “My headlock is better than yours.” This is what makes Kevin Owens a must watch. His heel character is very real. Very irritating. It is very reminiscent of the heel Chris Jericho from the late 2000s. He just annoys you. Plus, like Y2J, Owens is a terrific performer. He would change the look of the main event picture, as Rollins did. And going from one former Ring of Honor wrestler to another as WWE Champion isn’t a bad thing at all.
6. Cesaro. Could they? Would they? Will they? Probably not. But what if they did? What if they did? Cesaro may not be the best on the mic, but he may very well be the best in the ring and that’s pretty much what WWE needs in a champion right now. Someone who can look like a true fighter in the ring. The Cesaro section would take over the entire arena should this happen. But it’s more likely Cesaro will feud with Alberto Del Rio in the coming months over the United States Championship than him becoming WWE Champion in a few days.
7. Bray Wyatt. I mean he has the power of lightning – HOW CAN HE BE STOPPED? Seriously. He can control the TitanTron and the pyro. Plus, he has the Undertaker and Kane locked up in his garage fixing his rocking chairs or something. He has power. What’s the phrase? With great power, comes…great tournament wins, right? Wyatt could face Reigns in the title match and then Kane and the Undertaker come down and help Wyatt win because he brainwashed them…because that’s what they were doing while they were kidnapped…being brainwashed…and now we have a new champion. Then lightning goes off. And then there’s a nicely edited video package about Bray Wyatt to end the show. That could happen. Admit it. You want to see some of this. I would like to see his championship celebration the next night on Raw! With druids and monsters and Braun Strowmans and smoke and thunder. Would be a sight.
8. Brock Lesnar. The beast is back. Is he? How many days does he have left to appear this year? If it’s at least one than this could happen. Why not? He can steamroll the competition. Win the tournament. And not be seen again with the title until Royal Rumble. It’s been done before. This time he would only be away for a month. And we would have a credible champion. As I write this, I’m starting to believe this might happen myself.
9. John Cena. Yes, Cena is away on some personal business. I hope it’s a new rap album. But he is the WWE’s Ghostbusters. When there’s something strange (like an injury) and it don’t look good (in need of a champ), who you going to call? John! Cena! But I would hope if he was to make a surprise tournament entry, at least right before the final match of the night, he does a backstage segment with Ric Flair who wishes him luck on tying him for 16 championships. That’s all I ask. Go with what you know, WWE. Go with Cena. That’s fine. I’ve survived it before. But just have that Flair segment.
10. Samoa Joe. Joe has yet to appear on the main WWE roster. He’s doing a tremendous job in NXT and just turned heel on NXT Champion Finn Balor. But many have pulled double duty before and Samoa Joe is no stranger to working hard in the wrestling business. Joe has the look and feel of a big threat and can pose a serious danger to the top faces still standing in WWE after Survivor Series – Reigns, Ambrose, Orton, Ziggler.
These are only 10 of a multitude of options WWE has to ponder as Survivor Series nears. There’s also Ziggler, Ryback, Sting, and Daniel Bryan. But those all are iffy at best.
And what about Big Show?!!
So while we continue to be upset over what we lost in Seth Rollins’ injury, there is something to look forward to in what path the WWE will now take. Let’s just hope it’s not as cringe-worthy.