A new WWE World Heavyweight Champion will be crowned at Money in the Bank 2014, after Daniel Bryan was ruled unfit to compete at the pay-per-view on June 29.
Bryan has not wrestled since he defeated Kane at Payback, following his WrestleMania 30 victory over Batista and Randy Orton. Neck surgery has forced him out of action, and it’s unknown when he will return.
For the first time ever, the winner of the ladder match at Money in the Bank will immediately be awarded the belt. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon guaranteed that a new champ would be crowned, whey they stripped Bryan of the title for the second time in less than a year.
It’s very difficult to predict who will win the title, considering Bryan’s future status is unknown. It’s also been rumored that a second ladder match, which will feature a Money in the Bank briefcase, could be added to the card.
The ladder match will include seven wrestlers, four of which had already been officially be inserted in the match. Here’s a look at the top candidates to become the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
1) John Cena
To many, Cena seems like the obvious winner at Money in the Bank. It’s more than likely that he’ll be added to the match, and he’s the safe choice, as Bryan’s health status appears to be very uncertain. A victory for Cena could mean a match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, which might cause WWE to pull the trigger on another Cena title run.
Since Cesaro teamed up with Paul Heyman on the night after WrestleMania 30, an eventual match with Brock Lesnar has been deemed a foregone conclusion by much of the WWE Universe. The man who conquered The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak is likely to get a title shot at SummerSlam, and the Cesaro-Lesnar feud could begin with a win at Money in the Bank for the “King of Swing.”
A title run for Sheamus would only make sense if he immediately turns heel. Before the fans hijacked the Royal Rumble and all but forced WWE to make Bryan the champ, the company reportedly planned to pit a heel Sheamus against Bryan at WrestleMania 30. Fans could see that match at Battleground in July, but this time with the title on the line.
4) Randy Orton
The man who reigned as the WWE champ from October through April wouldn’t be the worst choice as the winner of the ladder match. It would keep plenty of heat on The Authority, and it would help WWE avoid choosing a champ that doesn’t have a history of being in the main event of PPVs.
5) Bray Wyatt
Putting the title on Wyatt would open up several possibilities for WWE. They could make him the World Heavyweight Champion, and give Luke Harper and Erick Rowan the tag team titles. There’s a chance he could become a babyface, considering how often he gets cheered. However, WWE likely already has big plans for Wyatt going forward, and they may not call an audible simply because Bryan is injured.
6) The Miz
The man who successfully defended his title against Cena at WrestleMania 27 could be a dark horse candidate to win the belt. He hasn’t qualified for the match, but his return has been heavily rumored, along with Ric Flair as his manager. He might not be the favorite, but if WWE plans for Bryan to regain his title before SummerSlam, it’s not impossible for that The Miz could be the champ for a few weeks.
7) Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio qualified for the ladder match with a win over Dolph Ziggler, before it was declared that Bryan was not medically cleared. The victory was one of the few that the former champ has picked up in recent months, and he probably has the longest odds of any entrant in the match.
Odd Men Out
Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have been three of WWE’s best performers, since they debuted in November 2012. However, the breakup of The Shield will likely keep them busy at the PPV, and they could be involved in a match with Triple H. Bad News Barrett has a lot of steam, but he lost his qualifying match and will likely defend the Intercontinental Title at the PPV.
Any realistic hope of CM Punk making his way back to WWE has been lost for months, but that hasn’t stopped speculation of his return. There haven’t been any reports of Chris Jericho making his way back, but his band, Fozzy, just ended their tour, and a year away from WWE could mean that he’s not far away from wrestling again.