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The likely candidates for next WWE World Heavyweight Champion

There will be a new champion crowned at Survivor Series. Let's run down the most likely Superstars to win the company's top prize.

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Seth Rollins is on the shelf and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship has been vacated. Survivor Series will feature a tournament for the vacant title. Suddenly, instead of Survivor Series being a stepping stone on the way to the Road to WrestleMania, we're guaranteed a new champion. While we don't know who the participants in the tournament will be just yet, there is a very big chance we will see a first-time world champion.

There are more possibilities than you might imagine at first, so let's run down everyone in WWE who could conceivably walk out of Survivor Series as the new World Heavyweight Champion, as well as how likely each scenario might actually be.

Quick note before we get started: no, I didn't include the Undertaker in this list. I'm just having trouble envisioning a scenario where an Undertaker title reign helps anyone. And I don't think he's interested in holding the title right now, anyway.

Roman Reigns

The odds-on favorite, certainly. If they're simply telling a straight story of one wrestler having the night of his life over the course of the tournament, this is Reigns' title to lose. However, the overall arc of Roman Reigns still makes more sense if he doesn't win his first world championship until the main event of next year's WrestleMania.

That written, it seems very, very likely that the Reigns Era begins at Survivor Series. Perhaps via a "Deadly Game"-type alignment shift. Speaking of which ...

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 9

Dean Ambrose

I personally feel the two most likely people to walk away with the title at Survivor Series are Reigns and Ambrose, with either of the best friends turning on the other in the finals (perhaps to align with the Authority). That way, the stage is still set for a THE SHIELD EXPLODES main event at WrestleMania, just in a match that doesn't involve Rollins.

If they're going that route, then WWE will likely want Ambrose to turn heel on Reigns, rather than the other way around. And that makes a lot of sense. While there is a segment of the fanbase that will always boo Reigns and cheer his Shieldmates, Reigns has made immense progress since WrestleMania. It would be a shame to cut him off at the knees now before he gets his WrestleMania moment as a good guy.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 9

Bray Wyatt

Yes, Bray is currently involved in his feud with the Undertaker. He would certainly work multiple matches at Survivor Series if asked. And what better way to build a new, main-event monster heel than by having the Wyatt Family take out the Brothers of Destruction (on the 25th anniversary of Undertaker's debut) AND have the Eater of Worlds capture the top title on the same night?

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 6

Kevin Owens

This is probably the one we all want. We're safely past those Kevin Dunn scares and it's pretty obvious the company knows there's tremendous value in Owens. Putting the WWE's top title on Owens would send a strong message that they're ready for the future.

More than that, it would make storyline sense after Owens said Rollins "owed him one" on Monday. The stage would be set for Rollins to return in six to nine months as a fired-up babyface, out to teach Owens a lesson for sullying the title in his absence.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 7

Brock Lesnar

The company was doing well when the title was on the most legit wrestler in the world. He always draws well and his appearances always bring interest from both mainstream press and lapsed fans. He's just special. WWE knows it. If they can figure out a way to add more dates or money to Lesnar's contract, it's not out of the question that he'll finally get back the title he never actually lost. Especially now that the feud with Undertaker is in his rearview mirror.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 9


The company appears to be solidly behind Cesaro for arguably the first time since WrestleMania XXX. The live crowd would go nuts for a Cesaro title win, but he could probably benefit from a little more high-profile time. A deep run in the title tournament will likely go a long way, but it doesn't appear it's time for him to win it all just yet.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 4

Dolph Ziggler

In the absence of Bryan Danielson, Ziggler is the company's greatest underdog babyface. Ziggler's main strength, however, is his singular ability to sustain fan support no matter where he is on the card, or whether he's challenging for or holding a title.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 3

Any member of The New Day

The New Day is the hottest act in the company right now. They're aligned with Rollins, so they'd want (in their own twisted way) to avenge him. Imagine the heat for an obnoxious trio that attempts to "Freebird Rule" the top title in the company. Imagine the segments with world champions The New Day. Unfortunately, we'll have to just imagine it. For now, anyway. It's just too early for Big E, who would be the most likely challenger of the three.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 2


The Big Guy reportedly told Vince McMahon that he's the guy who can replace John Cena. WWE probably admires his confidence and moxie. He's probably going to get a world title reign at some point. It won't be at Survivor Series.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 1

Kane/Big Show/Mark Henry/Sheamus/Alberto Del Rio

This is a generic category for "the safe choice." WWE chooses to put the title back on "an established main eventer"/former world champion. If Randy Orton weren't injured, he'd be in this category. You can lump Sting in here as well. Sheamus is the most likely candidate of all the Superstars I listed above, but he's still Mr. Money in the Bank, so if there's anyone you can take out of the running, it's Ol' Whitey.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 5

[Insert big name from the past]

WWE has reportedly been cold calling "big names" to try and gauge interest in someone coming in or coming back to help out now that they've found themselves in a bind. No word who might make up that pool (it's likely just John Cena and Brock Lesnar). But never underestimate the fraternal loyalty that WWE engenders. This could be anyone from The Rock to Batista to Chris Jericho. It's probably none of them. But can you imagine?

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 3

[Insert NXT callup]

Sorry, everyone. It's not happening.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 0

Daniel Bryan

If you're ever going to clear Bryan again, there's probably never going to be a better time. But only if he goes all the way. If this is Bryan's big comeback, you can't give him a bye into the finals or have him lose in the opening rounds. If he returns at Survivor Series, it has to end either with him winning it all, or to have victory in his grasp before being robbed of his title (which he never lost) by someone like Reigns or Ambrose, who would instantly have unstoppable heel cred by destroying our precious American Dragon.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 2

John Cena

Yes, he's taking time off. If there's anyone who would come back early from a personal side project, it's John Cena. Strangely, his being on the verge of tying Ric Flair's record for world title reigns actually makes him less likely to be the conquering hero at Survivor Series, as his chase for that 16th reign is definitely something WWE will want to build to. He's been penciled in to win the title from Reigns next year for some time. It doesn't seem like plans for Cena would change course.

All that being said, never count out John Cena being the next world champ. Never, ever, ever.

Likelihood (on a scale from 1-10): 8

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