Brock Lesnar is not long for the Universal Championship. That might be hard to imagine, since you have to go back to WrestleMania last year to find a time when he wasn’t carrying the meat-colored belt.
Just kidding you only need to see him about 400 of the past 440 days he’s been champ to find a time when he wasn’t carrying the belt, defending the belt or doing just about anything with the belt short of answering “yes I have that belt...somewhere around here” should some lost soul stumble upon his Canadian compound and dare to ask him about his job.
But no, he’s not going to be champ much longer, sorry all four of you out there that are bummed about that. In his place will be someone else...but who? You may have your favorites but if we’re looking at who is likely to be the next man up, there really seem to be only two options: Braun Strowman and Seth Rollins. One is the still relatively new Money in the Bank winner and the only (physically) credible challenger left to stand toe-to-toe with Lesnar, and the other is arguably the hottest babyface in the company with a proven track record as a main-eventer.
Who ya got?
Before you answer let’s run down the pros and cons of both...
As said, he’s a proven main-eventer who, after having a long run on top (as a heel), dropped back to the midcard and slowly climbed back up the ladder. There’s not been a Shield member yet (post-breakup) that is as universally beloved as Seth Rollins is right now. Maybe Dean Ambrose for that cup of coffee run in February 2016, but even that saw a few detractors peeing on the campfire, talking about Ambrose’s weak offense or the inevitability of his defeat. Rollins doesn’t have that right now. In fact he has basically no detractors that I can find (if you’re one, feel free to comment).
He’s hot, he’s working excellent matches and he just dropped the IC title, freeing him to move to the next belt up. He’s proven himself as a main-eventer as a heel, but it’s as a babyface champ where you butter your bread in WWE. Seth is ready.
He didn’t exactly set the world on fire during that (heel) main-event run, did he? Ratings flat-lined and most of his championship feuds disappointed one way or another (despite typically great matches). Granted, a lot of that was the booking, which took away any threat he had as a competitor and turned him into a coward who couldn’t win without help. As a babyface champ is there any guarantee that he’d be booked as a credible competitor and not yet another “scrappy, underdog babyface” who spends his matches getting beat up before lucking into a win? If they let him run with the belt the way he did the IC title, he’d be golden. Will they? That’s not guaranteed and that’s a cause for concern.
Well he’s big and popular and really charismatic. Isn’t that like 95% of what Vince wants? You might say “yeah but his matches are limited.” Yep, but Vince is booking the territory and hasn’t cared about workrate since 1997. If you’re big and popular and can work the stick you get the push. Shoot, if you’re just big you usually get the push and he will try his hardest to grind the fans into submission and force the pops to come no matter how much you may suck on the mic. So when a guy walks in with a really big waist and big pop in your face Vince gets sprung. With Braun we have the rare convergence of “big guy fans like” and “big guy Vince likes.” That’s exciting and will be until fans ruin it (as we are wont to do).
Speaking of...How long before his limited ring skills get exposed and a segment of the fanbase turns on him? To be fair, the WWE roster has maybe never been more stacked with superb in-ring talent, so Braun can conceivably be carried from one above average match to another for the duration of his reign and no one should care. But of course this is pro wrestling fandom; we love to hate this stuff SO BAD, so it probably wouldn’t be a month before the naysayers come out. They’ll have a legit point, but it’s not one that should matter that much since, again, he’ll have plenty of help around him.
It feels like a coin flip. On the one hand you have a smaller, popular ring-maestro who might suffer through bad booking, and on the other it’s a big monster who can’t work more than one kind of match yet keeps the fans engaged despite that, with both his underrated mic skills and the creative ways they keep showing off his strength (flipping ambulances like the Hulk and running through ladders like he’s playing Red Rover with kindergartners) but whose push might end wearing thin after a while.
If you ask me, it’s win-win. Both options have potential downsides but both can be great champs going forward. WWE can pick either one and run with him and I’ll be happy till the next one takes the baton.
What say you, Cagesiders? If you had to choose between Seth or Braun, who gets the pick? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!