Less than 24 hours after winning the first ever WWE Universal Championship match at SummerSlam 2016, Finn Balor was forced to drop the title because of an injury that will keep him out for approximately six months. Now, WWE has to find a new superstar to hold the top belt on “Monday Night Raw.”
After a series of qualifying matches on Monday, four wrestlers have a chance to win the championship. Kevin Owens, Roman Reigns, Big Cass and Seth Rollins will compete in a Fatal-4-Way on the Aug. 29 edition of “Raw,” and the winner will be awarded the now-vacant belt.
Who is the favorite to become the next WWE Universal Champion?
While there are four contenders, there are only three realistic choices. Big Cass has virtually no chance to win the belt, and he’ll probably end up being the wrestler that gets pinned to end the match. He’s still part of a tag team with Enzo Amore, and they’ll win the tag team titles before either one becomes a champion on their own.
Had this match occurred three months ago, Reigns would be the leading candidate to win. WWE has pushed him harder than any other superstar in the last two years, and he won the WWE World Championship three times between November of last year and WrestleMania 32 on April 3.
But for whatever reason—whether it be his recent wellness policy violation or his inability to get over with many of the fans as a babyface—Reigns was pushed out of the WWE Championship picture. Losing the title to Rollins at Money in the Bank, he was pinned clean in two straight pay-per-view matches, as well as in a match on the first episode of “Raw” after the WWE Draft.
WWE hasn’t exactly punished Reigns, considering he’s ended the last three episodes of “Raw” standing tall. But it’s clear that the company wasn’t looking for him to hold the top title anytime soon, and Balor’s injury shouldn't change that.
That brings it down to Owens and Rollins, both of whom would make a strong champion. They are the top two heels on “Raw,” and along with AJ Styles, probably WWE’s best all-around performers as the summer comes to an end.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Owens win the belt. He beat John Cena in his first ever match on the roster, and WWE clearly has high hopes for him since he’s had a match on every single PPV since he debuted in May 2015.
Rollins, however, is the safest choice, and the one that WWE will likely lean towards when being forced to alter their plans.
Since The Shield broke up in June 2014, Rollins has consistently been WWE’s best performer. His WWE World Championship run was cut short last year because of injuries, but he hasn’t lost a step since his return. When WWE finally decides to make him a babyface, he’ll quickly become the company’s most popular wrestler.
Rollins lost the first ever WWE Universal Championship match, but there’s a good chance he’ll win the belt eight days later.