‘Sup, Lords of Pain? Mazza here once again taking a little break from my look back at ATTITUDE! to take a look forward to what awaits us for the rest of 2014. It’s been one hell of an emotional ride so far in the crazy world of WWE. Of course there was the huge double blow which was the disappointing omission from the Rumble match and the walkout of Phil Brooks. There is also the fact for many of you that Daniel Bryan still isn’t WWE Champion. There’s the fact that Dave Batista will be in the Mania main event despite having the lung capacity of an asthmatic 8-year old with a 40-a-day smoking habit. But that is just one side of the coin. The other side shows that we have had some absolutely outstanding PPV and TV matches already this year. We have a whole host of fresh talent on the verge of superstardom and, how can we forget, the WWE Network. Well you ‘Muricans do anyway. Surely we can make a deal. I mean we’ve taken Piers Morgan back, the least you can do is give us the Network as soon as possible. But I am getting off point here. Since the start of the year we have seen just one man in charge of only world championship left in the WWE.
The Queue To Be WWE World Heavyweight Champion in 2014 (CPR Productions)
Feb 25, 2014 - 3:34:50 PM
Whilst he struggled a little at first following SummerSlam, I think Randal Keith Orton has really taken to his current character. It’s something he has not always managed to do successfully in the past but right now we have reached the point where we really want to see him get his comeuppance and that, at the end of the day, is the very purpose of a heel champion. Something else he has struggled with historically is keeping his in-ring style interesting when wrestling as the company’s number one bad guy. Following his 2011 World Heavyweight Championship run he had been probably the most consistent guy on the roster when it came to wrestling good matches despite many of them having little-to-no storyline attached. Whilst he struggled with that in the aftermath of SummerSlam, I think he has found a good balance in adapting the in-ring talent that he has to fit with his current persona. He displayed this brilliantly as he ran the gauntlet to Elimination Chamber before delivering a strong performance in the two miles of steel. In my mind he is deserves to head into WrestleMania as champion and storyline wise it makes sense too.
But one thing is for sure and that is that Randy won’t be holding onto that title throughout the calendar year. CM Punk’s longest reign of the last 25 years is not in any trouble for a couple of reasons. Firstly, with only one title there is no way they can keep it on one guy for that amount of time unless it is on a ridiculously over face. Secondly, there are just too many guys at the top or on the verge of the top not to share it around. Now I don’t believe we will see a great deal of hot-potatoing of the strap like we did in late-summer/early-autumn last year but we are still going to see some changes, even if it is a few as two other champions. When it comes to naming them though it is tough as the pool of potential champs might be as big as it has ever been. Still, I am going to have a look at the ten most likely candidates to hold the top strap in the WWE before the year is out.
1. Daniel “Chumbawamba” Bryan
What an amazing year or so it has been for Daniel Bryan. He has developed a popularity in live crowds to rival Austin and Hogan. He has beaten the champ, or had the champ beaten on no fewer than 18,376 occasions since SummerSlam. He has even had his hands on the title on a couple of occasions only to have it snatched away. It’s a situation that has divided the IWC. I have been very much on the side that believes the WWE won’t mess it up, and although my faith was tested to the limits at the rumble, I am not going to change my mind now. I do get why people aren’t so confident however and the company are playing with fire as some fans are walking away. Whether you believe WWE are building him up or messing him up, you would still have to think that it is pretty much a dead cert that Daniel Bryan will be WWE World Heavyweight Champion at some point during 2014. For some it may come too late (for some it already is). I hold out hope that it will come once he has defeated the Authority - the only obstacle that has stopped him from already achieving that goal on numerous occasions. Even if it turns out I am wrong however there is still a great possibility he will get a run in the quiet months later in the second half of the year. For me, Daniel Bryan is the only man I’d put any great amount of money on holding that strap this year.
2. Brock “YOLO” Lesnar
A brave call here from me considering he is a part timer who is prone to disappearing for months on end. The fact is though, he has signalled an interest in the belt and would you call him a liar? With a shot at the streak now confirmed for Mania, he won’t be leaving New Orleans as champion but I will predict with confidence he will get a title shot in 2014. The question really is whether he will win it. I think that is highly possible due to the fact that his potential as a transitional champion is massive. If you need to move the belt from one face to another, Lesnar is the perfect man to do that. Let’s say Daniel Bryan finally gets the strap sometime in spring. Losing to Lesnar at SummerSlam wouldn’t hurt DB and then putting over and fresh face would be huge. If our nightmares all come true at Mania and Batista leaves as champ, Brock would be a great choice to move the belt onto Bryan too. Of course, my insane ideas and reality aren’t the same thing but I really get the feeling, particularly following Heyman’s Raw promo, that The Beast will hold the gold this year.
3. Dave “Booooooooo” Tista
Now Big Dave might be at the very top of a lot of people’s lists. I can certainly see the logic behind it. I mean he has a guaranteed title shot for Mania, he is apparently about for a couple of years and even when the Rumble winner doesn’t get the strap at Mania, they usually get it later in the year. What worries me is that he is in no condition at the moment to work as the champ and surely management can see that. I think a lot of it boils down to what was discussed during negotiations for his return. There will be a bit of dilemma had he been promised the title at Mania but right now you’d have to do what is best for business and Batista winning the title in New Orleans surely isn’t it (and I say this as a fan of his). Son of Repoman however brought up an interesting point on the Elimination Chamber Post Show on LOP Radio. He said that Marvel could well be involved in the negotiations too with the big movie on the horizon in which case WWE would be pretty much stuck in having to put the belt on him. It will be interesting to see just where this goes but if he can get back into ring shape I’d be more than happy to see him with the belt in the summer.
4. John “The Spot Caller” Cena
Putting John Cena this low might be more brave than putting Lesnar that high. I mean he is the face of the company after all. Plus it has been over a year since he wrestled a PPV match that wasn’t for a world title. But in all honesty, I think Cena is in that special attraction role and has been since for a couple of years now. Once he dropped out of the title scene in autumn 2011 he pretty much killed time until The Rock match. Once he lost that, it was basically special attraction status again until winning the rumble. He got his deserved big moment against Rocky, winning the title at last year’s Mania before handing the keys to Daniel Bryan. His domination of Del Rio and Sandow over the big gold belt after he returned from injury had people rolling their eyes but it turned out it was for a bigger picture. His star power raised the profile of a unified title that Orton needed a lot more than him. Now he is out of the title picture I can see him going back to special attraction status and bringing a couple of these exciting young talents up a level. I definitely believe he will wrestle for the title during 2014 but I just don’t see him winning it with so many options about.
5. Cart Man Punk
A controversial inclusion here. I think we are currently slap bang in the middle of the window that would see him return in time for Mania. If this was a work all along or it has turned into a work, we would either have seen him return to TV at Elimination Chamber, this week’s Raw or next week’s Raw. We have already seen two strikes pass with a swing and a miss and if that happens again on Monday, I believe it ends the Mania dream which in turn makes it highly unlikely that the WWE will continue to try and get him to change his mind. If it was a work all along however, the chances are we will see him hold the belt at some point this year. If it is a negotiating platform, there is a good chance he will hold the strap again at some point this year. If he really did have enough though, there’s probably no chance whatsoever. All I can say is this, if it is a case of him throwing his toys out of his pram, good riddance. Elimination Chamber proved there is ample talent able to take on a main event position in the company.
=6. Bray “Creepy” Wyatt
Anyone who follows me will know I have never quite been fully behind the the Bray Wyatt character. I’ve been a fan of Windham Rotunda’s in ring potential but not so much the Wyatt gimmick. The fact that he didn’t get much of a chance to show his wrestling skill and the WWE didn’t do a great job with introducing the faction hurt him. You know what will change perspectives quickly though? Back-to-back PPVs with Match of the Year contenders. He is winning more of the internet over but realistically that doesn’t matter a great deal anyway. The fact is he is getting pushed hard and fast. He went over Daniel Bryan on consecutive PPVs. Whilst the first was a handicap match, the second was clean and I can’t recall the last person to beat Bryan without a whole load of shenanigans taking place. He then takes his faction to war with the greatest faction in WWE history (yeah, I said it), pinning their de facto leader in the process. Now he goes on to fight the company posterboy at the biggest event of the year. Make no mistake about it, Bray is on the fast track to greatness and that could very well see him holding the greatest prize in the industry before we reach 2015. When he does, look out for this next man to be there or be the man he takes it from, or the man he passes it onto...
=6. Roman “****ing” Reigns
Hustle recently made the comparison of The Shield’s Reigns, and The Wyatt Family’s Bray to The Nation’s Rock and DX’s Hunter. I think that is spot on. The staredowns between Wyatt and Roman over recent weeks have seemed like a look at the future of the company for a long time. There will be big matches between the two and I would be confident that at least one Mania main event is included in that. The fact that their first one-on-one encounter was the main event match on such and important Raw episode is evidence of that (even if the match was a tad disappointing). I am so confident in that fact that I would class both as viable options to end Taker’s streak - probably the only two that there have been since the streak was a thing. The discussion over which Shield member has the highest ceiling has been going on since day one but, as good as Rollins and Ambrose are (and that is extremely), Reigns is the now the only answer. He oozes star power and his booking at Survivor Series, The Royal Rumble and ever since prove the machine is definitely behind him. Like Bray, there are many world title reigns (puns always intended) in his future, the only question is whether the first will come this year.
8. “Excessive Citrus” Sheamus
You can’t help but think that Sheamus is being made somewhat of an ugly stepsister at the moment. He was the man that took over from Batista on screen and in Triple H’s heart when Dave moved onto pastures new. Now The Animal is back, you have to wonder what that means for the Celtic Warrior. With only one world title, you’d assume that even without Batista he’d be struggling to find his place. His best bet would probably be a heel turn that sees him align with the Authority. It would make sense once Orton loses the belt but due the heel reactions Batista is getting right now probably rules that out for him. If Big Dave does win the strap as a heel or a face, Sheamus could make a good foil to him at some point. Whatever happens, I see Sheamus dropping in on the title picture at some point this year but I don’t think it will see him winning the strap unless it is in a transitional role.
9. Alberto “Perro” Del Rio
In a lot of ways I think Del Rio’s will ultimately have a similar year to Sheamus. I can see him having a run as challenger but ultimately coming up short. If the rumours of him looking to retire are true it’s unlikely we will see him as the only world champ but rather putting others over. There are lots of potentially great matches with the the guys looking to break out in addition to what would be a mouthwatering encounter with Bryan over the title. If the WWE do want to try and get him to sign on, a short run with the belt certainly isn’t out of the question. Whilst he has struggled to get any sustained big crowd reactions as a face or a heel, he is more than dependable in the ring and could do the job for a while against the right opponents. Think about how bad Batista’s matches on Sunday and Monday could have been if it was anyone else across from him. ADR won me over with his WHC run in 2013 and I hoping he gets a little bit of the spotlight in 2014 too. I think he deserves it.
10. Antonio “Actually Scrap That First Bit” Cesaro
This guy is on absolute fire right now. I mean to be fair, he has been delivering for well over a year now but since dropping his first name he has reached a new level. I think this guy is primed to become the next unanimous IWC posterboy in the Punk-Bryan line and that is quite an achievement considering the competition he has for that position right now. But obviously that doesn’t necessarily equate to a world title run. I have seen a few people make a Kurt Angle comparison and at times recently I have seen where they are coming from. I still think he will become this generation’s Chris Benoit however (without the murder). The badass who will essentially be the main event gatekeeper. Benoit of course put in a few years service in that role before finally getting a run with the title but he was a credible challenger throughout most of his WWE run. I do think Cesaro may have to wait past 2014 to get his first taste of big boy gold but if he continues to have impressive chemistry with every main eventer he comes across, he could be a strong outside chance for a run this year, maybe with an assist from a Money in the Bank briefcase.
The Outside Bets
So there are the ten guys I think are most likely to hold the gold this year but there are plenty of others who some people might argue a case for, so here are ten more. The next man on my list would have been Big E who is another in that rising star category. He has got friends in high places which will help but he is still behind the likes of Reigns and Wyatt. Talking of those two again, their stablemates are also rising stars. I think 2014 will be a bit too soon for the rest of the Shield and Wyatt Family but if any of them do pull off a shock it will be Dean Ambrose for my money. Of course the midcard isn’t just full of rising stars but also established wrestlers too. Cody Rhodes is one who has been talked about a lot during 2013 but he hasn’t been helped by his big bro putting him in his shadow recently. You’ll get the usual Miz-Swagger-Kofi type debates but seeing as I foolishly predicted he would win the strap in my Smarks Court End of Year special, I have to give Dolph Ziggler a mention!
It’s not just the midcarders we have to look out for though. There’s that contingent of occasional main eventers still left over from the Attitude Era. Mizark, Show and Corporate Kane all have an outside shot with the right storyline but who could begrudge Christian One More Match following his excellent work this past couple of weeks. Then of course there are the comeback kings who pop up every so often. These guys have still got just about enough left in the tank to run with the current crop and you know that Chris Jericho will be throwing his name in the hat at every opportunity. He could step in as a legitimate contender at any time but I’d be more interested in seeing Kurt Angle come home for a last run. Talking of coming home, how sure would you be that we don’t see Hulk Hogan with a final title win. Granted it is highly unlikely but it didn’t look on the cards when he returned around this time twelve years ago either. Maybe he can drop it to a debuting Sting seeing he never beats him.
I feel like I am forgetting someone! Ah yes, Triple H. Now that might be the ultimate troll, but would you really put it past him? But that’s all I have for now. I have decided to put up a little poll to see who you guys feel will win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship this year. Just vote for the guys you will hold the gold. You can select multiple answers so choose everyone you think will win the title in 2014 before clicking vote.
So there you have it. Feel free to give me your thoughts below, especially if you clicked on other! Also, if you have any insane theories for potential champions, I’d love to hear them. I will be back on Friday with Maverick for ATTITUDE! and before we get underway with a look at the One Night Only UK exclusive PPV, I will reveal the poll results. Until then however, Peace!
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