The brand split is all about change and WWE’s hope of the new era succeeding. NXT’s growth and an overall youth movement in the WWE have led to new stars being established. The main roster has been met with injuries and retirements causing the company to need younger talents to step up faster than expected. The Shield, Kevin Owens, Charlotte and Sasha Banks have been some of the names to thrive in the new environment. There are also top stars like John Cena, Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar hoping to add more great moments to their rich legacies in pro wrestling.
The most important thing about the brand split is it is opening up opportunities for new stars. Two rosters making the playing field even is what many talents have been wanting for a long time. We will absolutely see new names in the title picture as the company needs both depth and new Superstars to become top draws. New opportunities for former top stars relegated to the midcard may also play a factor. The top names will obviously still be in the conversation. We’ll look at talents all across the board with eight wrestlers that we want to see win the World Championship and another seven we do not in the brand split.
15 Want: Finn Balor
The speculation on Finn Balor being called up from NXT to the main roster has been going on for about a year now. Balor evolved into the face of NXT and was needed to keep the momentum of the smaller brand growing. A brand split between Raw and SmackDown provides the perfect time for him to make a move to the main roster. The call-up and impending drafting of Balor should work out best for his career.
Instead of getting lost in the shuffle or being stuck in the midcard, Balor will have less competition on whichever show he gets drafted on. The talented star has the “it factor” WWE desperately wants in their wrestlers and he has already shown the ability to sell merchandise in NXT. Balor has all of the tools and will already be loved when debuting on national television. WWE has to put the plan in place to elevate him as quickly as possible and Balor is definitely good enough to win a WWE Championship by next year.
14 Don’t: Randy Orton
WWE has always valued Randy Orton more than the fans have. Orton was treated with kid gloves from his early days in WWE with the opportunity to become a star in Evolution and various pushes despite questionable results. The face character of Orton rarely connects and it seems like that will be his role when returning against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. A brand split means everyone has a bigger responsibility to step up with the rosters split in half.
Orton will get another crack in the main event picture with his return coming at a great time. We can only hope the days of Orton dominating the World Title scene are over. The aging process and injuries should see him fit into the place where Chris Jericho currently is. While entertaining the audience with tremendous character work, Jericho is primarily used to put over the young stars but can slot into big matches when needed. That would be ideal for Orton as he should never hold a World Championship again.
13 Want: Cesaro
Cesaro's career feels like the same story repeating itself over and over again. Cesaro finds a way to get over, appears to be moving up the card, and gets stuck in a pointless midcard angle. Everyone hoped he would be finally on the way to better things when the crowd treated him like a king following his return from injury on the Raw after WrestleMania 32. The Swiss Superman is already a background player once again instead.
Cesaro should hope the draft is the opportunity needed to finally get the ball and run with it. The brand split means many talents will see the biggest pushes of their career and Cesaro should certainly be one of them. Hopefully the powers that be will allow him to connect with less restrictions or hesitant booking. Cesaro as World Champion would be a risk but the positives could see one of the best in-ring title reigns of the modern era.
12 Don’t: The Miz
Don’t get it wrong. The Miz is great in his role as the Intercontinental Champion right now. The return of his real life wife Maryse to appear in his corner has given the character new strengths to play off and he has put out some of the best work of his career. The Miz’s success comes from being in the perfect position as a midcard champion. His chances of success in the main event are very slim.
We already saw what happened when the WWE tried pushing him in the World Title picture with a flop that took him years to recover from. The Miz should have a lengthy stint as the Intercontinental Champion with new challengers from NXT or feuds with established roster members to continue adding credibility to the title. Sami Zayn and The Miz could tell a great story this summer with both men playing the underdog hero and arrogant villain to perfection. Just keep Miz away from any World Title matches.
11 Want: Any Member of New Day
The New Day are still among the most popular acts in the WWE. Most would have expected the love to die down but fans are still cheering and buying merchandise. You’ll be stunned at the amount of unicorn horns and Booty-O shirts being sold if you attend a WWE live event. The trio is dominating the tag team division with a near full calendar year holding the titles. Each member is credible and entertaining enough to reach singles success in addition to the faction.
The group should not end, but one of them needs to be elevated into the main event picture while the other two continue the tag team reign. Kofi Kingston has always been a beloved face and a World Title win could create an organic moment of a long tenured star finally capturing the greatest prize. Big E's work is exceptional right now and WWE has always been a fan of his potential. Xavier Woods is the wild card with a world of personality. Any of them could be a great champion and we need to see the New Day hold all the gold at some point in the near future.
10 Don’t: Bray Wyatt
Timing is among the most important things in wrestling and the WWE has missed the boat on Bray Wyatt. The character was one of the most unique and special in recent memory, but it has been damaged near the point of no return. Wyatt has lost every major feud to the likes of John Cena, The Undertaker and Roman Reigns. The Rock also humiliated him at WrestleMania 32.
The recent idea for The Wyatt Family and New Day to completely rip off Matt Hardy’s Final Deletion made him look foolish once again. Wyatt will likely see a fresh slate and be given a bigger push. It wouldn’t even be surprising if he won one of the World Titles at SummerSlam. The timing has passed him by and it will take huge changes to get him back to relevance. We have no issue with Bray Wyatt as a world champion, but it shouldn't happen right away. They need to slowly re-build his character so that his title win means something.
9 Want: Sami Zayn
Sami Zayn's journey in NXT proved he can be capable of reaching the World Title level, but it will take some time. Aside from being introduced as Kevin Owens’ enemy, Zayn has not been able to showcase who he is and why NXT fans loved him as the underground underdog. The talent and strengths of Zayn are very similar to Daniel Bryan. If booked correctly and put in noteworthy storylines for an extended time period, Zayn is a special performer.
A brand split means someone like Zayn is the perfect candidate to achieve a bigger platform. We haven’t seen him on the main roster too long, so a push would be relatively fresh. The original point of NXT was to create stars for Raw and SmackDown. Zayn was the first true star to take the developmental brand into the stages of where it has reached today. The story of his rise to the top of the WWE is one that will eventually play out if they are truly committed to the principles of the brand split.
8 Don’t: Alberto Del Rio
Vince McMahon has a soft spot for Alberto Del Rio and it has caused the Superstar to enter the main event picture far too often. Del Rio is absolutely talented and showed signs of greatness during his first few years in WWE, but has devolved into one of the least interesting performers in the business. The crowd is completely silent every time Del Rio walks to the ring and the excitement for the show disappears.
The brand split could provide temptation for McMahon to give his perennial favorite another opportunity as a heel World Champion. Top heels Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles all get mixed reactions with many fans adoring them. Del Rio’s apathy may be confused for heat and it is feasible Del Rio will hold the championship gold again. The contract offered to him was initially main event money and we have to hope the WWE doesn’t start pushing him as such.
7 Want: John Cena
The fans are finally starting to appreciate and respect John Cena’s legendary career. Sure, fans still heckle him with the “John Cena sucks” singing, but that is more of a fun interaction like the old “you suck” chant at Kurt Angle. The legitimate hatred of Cena has died out following him delivering superb matches against all of the new stars in the company. WWE’s experiment of pushing Roman Reigns as “The Guy” also opened up the eyes of fans, as they saw how great they had it.
Cena’s United States Championship reign in 2015 was the biggest realization of understanding how important he was. The matches all delivered with a variety of opponents from the main event scene to the lower card to NXT call-ups. Cena hit a home run every time and he should do the same with one of the World Titles. Bringing the open challenge to the World Championship with a twist could be a game changer in making one of the shows must-watch television for the intrigue of a mystery opponent any given night.
6 Don’t: Sheamus
Sheamus is the definition of a loyal employee with hard work over his entire career and no complaints. Most fans find him completely uninteresting, but he clearly has a great deal of talent. His lack of personality and WWE pushing him way more than he should have been caused fans to form resentment. No one wants to see Sheamus ever return to the top of the mountain after his horrendous World Title program with Roman Reigns towards the end of 2015.
The smaller rosters can open up the potential of another big push for Sheamus. Similar to Alberto Del Rio, Sheamus has the love of management and the benefit of a lack of top heels on the roster. Someone out of the ordinary is bound to get a chance towards the top of the card on the heel side. We can only hope it is Samoa Joe, Baron Corbin or another new talent from NXT. Sheamus’ time is up and he should spend the rest of his WWE tenure in the midcard putting over new talents.
5 Want: Seth Rollins
The best all-around performer in the WWE today is Seth Rollins. Following his return from injury, Rollins looks more confident than ever on the microphone with great promos. His character work is at a new level to match his always excellent work rate. Aside from maybe A.J. Styles, no one can match Rollins in the ring. The next decade will be full of classic matches from one of the faces of the new era.
WWE has to make Rollins the top star on one of the shows. His in-ring style and fan support is organically building towards a face turn, but he's still incredible as a heel. It is one of the best problems to have but the future of Rollins’ character is unknown. There’s no doubt Rollins was intended to turn face for a WrestleMania 32 match against Triple H before his injury. Will that plan continue at some point this year or next? Regardless, Rollins has to be the first champion on one of the brands to establish his role as “the man” in WWE for the next decade.
4 Don’t: Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns dropped the ball during the biggest push in recent memory when he violated the wellness policy as the WWE World Champion. The company spent years trying to make him the biggest star in the industry and he completely failed them when needed most. WWE has to wake up and put Reigns on the backburner for now. There are so many exciting new talents that deserve even a small fraction of the opportunity given to Reigns.
With the brand split, it seems like a given that Reigns will be the top face on one of the shows but fans are likely to react negatively to him for his suspension. They were already booing him out of the building most weeks and it is getting worse. Reigns has to move out of the title picture for the foreseeable future to have any chances of getting out of the hole he’s currently in. We don’t want to see the failed push continue with another lackluster World Title run following such a public failure.
3 Want: A.J. Styles
It only took a few months for A.J. Styles to find his footing in the WWE and he is already one of the top performers in the company. Styles had unbelievable matches with John Cena and Roman Reigns over the past three PPV's. The reformation of The Club in the WWE gives Styles his old New Japan Bullet Club partners Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows by his side. Styles is arguably the best wrestler in the world today and has a huge chance with the brand split.
Roman Reigns is coming off his suspension issues. Brock Lesnar wrestles once every few months. Dean Ambrose has been kind of unimpressive as the WWE Champion. John Cena doesn’t work live events as much. The title picture is wide open for new talent to rise to the challenge. Styles is definitely on pace to becoming a World Champion in the very near future. Vince McMahon is rumored to be a huge fan of Styles and regrets not signing him years earlier. WWE can no longer waste time and Styles needs to capture gold sooner rather than later.
2 Don’t: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is alluring and he always brings a great attraction feel to the WWE, but he should never hold the title again. A champion has to appear on television at least once per month for the PPVs. The brand split makes it even more pivotal. One show having an active World Champion would just expose the other having Brock on the sidelines. We also can’t ignore the recent anti-doping violation Brock may have had during his UFC fight testing.
Lesnar has not looked as impressive in his recent outings for the WWE either with a disappointing WrestleMania 32 performance with Dean Ambrose. You have to wonder if his heart is in MMA. Lesnar is still valuable but his talent is appearing every once in a while for an attraction match at big shows. That just can’t be in the World Title picture. The risks are far too great to allow the brand of Lesnar’s drafting to go without a champion appearing frequently.
1 1.Want: Kevin Owens
WWE has been preaching the ways of the new era dictating the future of WWE with the brand split. No one exemplifies the changes in the company more than Kevin Owens. His non-traditional look is overshadowed by his unique talent, making him one of the most popular stars today. Owens dominated NXT within a few months and found a spot on the main roster faster than anyone could have predicted.
The most impressive stat about Owens so far on the main roster is realizing he has appeared on every single PPV in his first year. No one else has done that in WWE history other than The Undertaker. Owens has the personality, the intensity and the skill to make every match he is in a joy to watch. WWE will have to take a chance on a wrestler or two in the World Title picture for the brand split to work. Kevin Owens always delivers when put in a big spot and winning the big one would go a long way for helping the new era of the WWE.