As announced earlier this month on RAW, WWE will be holding a tournament at the upcoming Night of Champions to crown a new World Heavyweight Champion. The rationale being that the Undisputed Universal Championship will become exclusive property of the show to which current champ Roman Reigns gets drafted.
Rumors suggest that this change in direction was made at the urging of WWE’s broadcast partners, NBCU (USA Network) and FOX, as both of channels want big-name star power to appear on their weekly shows – and with their TV deals being re-negotiated right now, there’s no way WWE won’t bend over for either of them even if that means undoing the excellent story that was Roman Reigns’ dominance over the past three years resulting in him unifying the two championships at WrestleMania 38.
If, on the other hand, this was done for the reason given on TV – that Roman has negotiated a contract that will see him appear on TV and defend the title very rarely – then it begs a couple of questions.
First, if Roman doesn’t want to wrestle regularly why couldn’t they simply have taken the title off of him and put it on someone who would be more willing to wrestle on TV regularly (*cough* Cody Rhodes *cough*)? The answer to that question: WWE is hoping with all of Vince McMahon’s might that The Rock will return at WrestleMania 40 for a dream match against Reigns.
Second, does having a second champion actually address the issue of one show lacking a prestigious world title? If Roman is only rarely defending his title, won’t his brand still get short shrift in terms of star power? And if that raises objections from that network down the road how long before WWE either has the new World Heavyweight Champion crossing between brands to defend against members of both rosters? Or, worse, introducing a third world champion to make up for Roman’s part-time schedule?
While those questions are still to be answered down the road, the more immediate question is who should be competing in the tournament for the new championship? Rhodes seems like a shoo-in though arguably winning the title in this way as opposed to beating Reigns would undoubtedly feel a bit of a pyrrhic / hollow victory and not the satisfactory ending to his story like if he’d beaten Roman at WrestleMania.
Seth Rollins is a name that has also been bandied about given his history as a World Champion. It also isn’t inconceivable to think that they might put the title on a seasoned veteran, maybe as a last hurrah before they hang up their boots: Edge, Randy Orton, or AJ Styles could be on that list. A title run could potentially be a good bargaining chip to retain Drew McIntyre who is reportedly unhappy with his contract renegotiations. There are also thoughts that one of McMahon’s “pet projects” could be rewarded now that he’s back. Austin Theory, perhaps, or (heaven help us) Baron Corbin?
With a few weeks to go until the competition, WWE will have to figure out a way to seed the tournament. If I were a betting man, I’d say they’ll do a series of qualifying matches over the next few weeks, featuring random superstars, many of whom its clear will have no chance anyway.
Instead, I propose that they forego that time-filler and instead select participants based on merit. And, specifically, by including only people that hold a victory over Roman Reigns since he became the Universal Championship on August 30, 2020.
I’ve gone back through his win-loss record (courtesy of our friends at the Internet Wrestling Database) and picked out everyone who has beaten Roman in a singles match, or anyone who has part of a team that has beaten Roman’s team in a tag team or triple tag team match since that date.
That list of people is as follows:
- John Cena
- Kevin Owens
- Drew McIntyre
- Xavier Woods
- Kofi Kingston
- Big E
- Seth Rollins
- Rey Mysterio
- Jeff Hardy
- Angelo Dawkins
- Montez Ford
- Finn Balor
- Dominik Mysterio
Out of those 15, Jeff Hardy is ineligible, given that he’s contracted to AEW, so we’re down to 14. Next, I ruled out John Cena since he isn’t on the active roster, and Big E, who is out with injury. That took the list down to 12.
To make things easier for setting tournament brackets, I wanted to have 16 participants. So that necessitated going back further in time until I found the next four Superstars who had recent wins over Reigns. Those four are:
- King Corbin
- Dolph Ziggler
Technically, others may have qualified over some of these four but I eliminated Bobby Roode who is injured. Shane McMahon and Erick Rowan aren’t currently on the roster and all of the rest are currently contracted with AEW (Dash Wilder, Scott Dawson, and Daniel Bryan).
Now if I were to put my fantasy booker hat on, I would seed the tournament as follows:
- McIntyre vs. Otis
- Woods vs. Ziggler
- Owens vs. Elias
- Kofi vs. Seth Rollins
- Erik vs. Rey Mysterio
- Ivar vs. Dawkins
- Dominik Mysterio vs. Montez Ford
- Finn Balor vs. King Corbin
Of those matches, I would submit the second round would look like this:
- Drew vs. Balor
- Woods vs. Dominik
- Owens vs. Ivar
- Rollins vs. Rey Mysterio
Leading to these match-ups in the semi-finals:
- Drew vs. Rollins
- Dominik vs. Owens
Leading to Drew vs. Owens in the finals, and of those two, I’d predict McIntyre to win that match and become the new World Heavyweight Champion.
Of course, while my fantasy booking is based somewhat on history, in the real world, it’s based on the whims of Vince. So who knows what will happen. All we can do is stay tuned and hope for the best. And pray that it isn’t Shane.