Every era has a face that defines it. The Golden Generation of wrestling had Hulk Hogan, the New Generation had Bret Hart, the Attitude Era had Stone Cold Steve Austin and the PG Era had John Cena. The WWE has now embarked on its so called New Era and with that, a face has to go with it.
What does this ‘New Era’ of wrestling mean? Well, so far it means that in-ring skill takes precedence over a wrestler’s ‘look’ and that in-ring action is more important than the ability to cut a promo. At least that’s the way it’s worked out so far. This era has plenty of time to find its identity, but seeing as that it’s now underway, WWE must be trying to figure out who the face of the company is going to be.
We can see for ourselves that there are obvious names who could carry that distinction. It seems that nobody is unanimous though, so we’re going to try to pick apart all the top contenders. In this list, we’ll be looking at the eight most likely faces of the new era and find a good reason for or against them in regards to this role. Hopefully, by the end of the list, you’ll have come to a conclusion as to who it should be. Enjoy!
For: Finn Balor
Well it’s clear that the WWE has faith in the former NXT Champion, as his first month on the main roster saw Finn Balor get drafted in the first round, and then become the first ever WWE Universal Champion. In Balor, the WWE has something that they haven’t had since The Undertaker was on the full-time roster: an attraction. Balor’s entrance instantly draws casual viewers into the fold, much how the ringing of the bells did nearly two decades ago for The Deadman. Oh and let’s not forget that Finn can wrestle circles around most people on the WWE roster, and has been doing so since before he even went to Japan a few years ago. Speaking of Japan, there is an entire Bullet Club reunion angle that WWE has in its back pocket if they ever want to turn Balor heel, which by itself is worth the price of entry.
Against: Finn Balor
From the outset, the elephant in the room has to be Finn Balor’s age. Although his experience stretches almost 17 years, wrestling years are hard on a body, especially one that is closing in on 40. The New Era is certainly filled with new faces, but to be considered the poster boy for this new chapter in wrestling, one would assume that the wrestler representing it should be in their prime for at least another decade. We’ve already seen that Balor is injury prone, as he was forced to vacate the Universal Title after less than 24 hours of being champion. Could Balor be the John Cena of this generation? Sure he could, but WWE may not be willing to invest their company in a competitor whose career may be on borrowed time.
For: Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens is probably the best heel that the WWE has had in at least 10 years, maybe longer if you discount Triple H’s time as a tweener. With that being said, it has been extremely refreshing to watch him grow so organically in a system that has been known to stifle creative performers. COO Triple H obviously has faith in Owens, as his role in securing the title for the current Universal Champion was both a literal and figurative seal of approval from the WWE. Despite his larger frame, Owens can go with anyone in the WWE, and has put on classics with nearly everyone on the roster already. Though RAW has seen a notable decline in quality since he won the Title, Owens has consistently held his own in matches, backstage segments, and mic work.
Against: Kevin Owens
While we have seen big guys last well into their 60s in the wrestling business, Kevin Owens isn’t that guy. That isn’t a crack against Owens personally, but rather an observation of his scheduled when compared to guys like Big Van Vader. A generation ago, wrestlers never would have dreamed working the schedule that the WWE roster has to work today. It’s hard for athletes in their top physical shape to hang with WWE’s 300+ calendar, let alone someone who looks like Owens. Another fact to think of is that Owens at his best when he is playing a heel, and WWE has never had a heel be the face of their company for a long period of time. Hogan led to Bret Hart, who led to Steve Austin, who led to John Cena. Sure Owens could play that role, but WWE would utilize him better as the foil to that person.
For: AJ Styles
As one of the most decorated wrestlers of all time, AJ Styles has certainly earned himself a place on this list. Styles has a ton of things going for him in this discussion, mainly being his impressive showing since entering the WWE last January. The Phenomenal One is very unique, as he is universally (no pun intended) respected by both the casual and hardcore fan base. Casual fans have witnessed Styles take on all challengers in WWE, and become one of the few wrestlers in the world to defeat John Cena cleanly. From the perspective of the IWC, AJ Styles has been one of the most respected workers in the industry since first emerging in TNA over a decade ago. With his ability to work any style, with anybody, this seems like a no brainer for the WWE.