The premier belt on Monday Night Raw is the newly introduced WWE Universal Championship, which is not even six months old up to date. On Smackdown Live, the WWE World Championship is the highest prize up for grabs. While only Finn Balor and Kevin Owens have held Raw's top belt, a number of individuals have held Smackdown's premier prize (prior it to being renamed the WWE World Championship).
Individuals such as John Cena and Randy Orton have reached the mountaintop on a number of occasions as Cena has sixteen reigns under his belt, while Orton has twelve in his own right. Newcomers such as AJ Styles and the forenamed Balor and Owens have also reigned as well. Here, we take a look at those wrestlers that have the potential to become WWE Universal Champion and/or WWE World Champion. Here are ten wrestlers that will not reach the top and five that will.
19 WON'T: Sami Zayn
The former NXT Champion from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Sami Zayn is yet to hold gold on WWE's main roster. While gold is almost assuredly in Zayn's future sooner rather than later, the gold that he will be holding will not be one of the company's top two prizes; instead, it will be one of the two mid card belts, the United States Championship (most likely), or the Intercontinental Championship. At 6'1'', Zayn just teeters over the Cruiserweight limit by seven pounds as he weighs in at 212 pounds. Suffice to say, Zayn is one of the smaller superstars on the roster and if history has taught us anything it's that size certainly matters in Vince McMahon's land of giants. The good news for Zayn is that he has all the necessary tools to be a premier player in the mid card for years to come.
18 WON'T: Cesaro
When you garner heavy praise from the company's golden boy John Cena, are over with the fans, are frequently touted by your coworkers as being one of, if not the company's strongest workers and have a look that screams "I was sculpted by the Gods", you'd assume that not only are you a future World Champion, but you will be a multiple time future World Champion. Cesaro possesses all the necessary tools to be WWE World Champion and/or WWE Universal Champion, however, he has been on the main roster for close to five years now and has failed to enter the main event scene as a legitimate threat not because he doesn't possess all the necessary tools, but, because the powers to be at WWE believe he doesn't possess all the necessary tools. Does Cesaro deserve an opportunity at the top of the mountaintop? No question! Will he get that opportunity? Sadly, no.
17 WILL: Baron Corbin
When looking at Smackdown's current roster its lack of a top heel is noticeably absent. While the "Phenomenal One" AJ Styles technically plays the role of a heel, he is showered with love and admiration by the fans. In a January 2017 interview with AL.Com, Styles told the website, "sometimes I feel like if I'm not getting people to boo me, then I'm not doing my job right. So that's on me. I need to be better about being the bad guy. And sometimes they just refuse. These fans just refuse to accept me as the bad guy". With Styles not being accepted as the bad guy, the void of filling the role of top heel is up for grabs on the blue brand. The 6'8'', 275 pound Corbin has a great look (regardless of how you may or may not feel regarding his scalp) to him and is loathed by fans. He could easily fill the void of top heel on Smackdown and what better way to do so then by holding the WWE World Championship.
16 WON'T: Bobby Roode
The newly crowned NXT Champion, Bobby Roode, made a name for himself the minute he stepped foot in NXT as his "Glorious" gimmick is about as over as any gimmick there is currently within WWE, whether that's on the main roster or in developmental. The thirty-nine year old is no stranger to holding gold as he is a former 2x TNA World Heavyweight Champion and 6x TNA World Tag Team Champion. Not to mention, Roode has held the top prize in a number of independent promotion's such as All-Canadian Pro Wrestling and Atlantic Coast Wrestling. At thirty-nine years old, Roode clearly has age working against him and with Shinsuke Nakamura having lost his NXT Championship for the second time, his tenure in NXT is likely concluding fast. As a result, Roode will be expected to man the fort in NXT. Roode's time on the main roster will more than likely primarily feature him in the mid card or tag division.
15 WON'T: Big Cass
Vince McMahon's infatuation with larger superstars is well-documented and is no secret. Hence, it should come as no surprise that he's a staunch supporter of the latter of Enzo and Cass, Big Cass. Lucky for Cass, McMahon's grown to become even more impressed by Big Cass since the moment he first laid eyes on the seven footer. According to a December 2016 report by Ringside News, McMahon reportedly is now not just impressed with the size of Cass' but also with his facial expressions and overall presence on WWE programming. While McMahon may be impressed with Cass' overall talent and ability, it's no secret that he struggles on the mic. Cass is by no means a bad worker; however, he doesn't ooze main event material.
14 WILL: Bray Wyatt
The majority of fans will tell you that Bray Wyatt is long overdue when it comes to him being either WWE Universal or WWE World Champion. Heck, it shouldn't be an argument considering Wyatt Family member Luke Harper held singles gold (Intercontinental Championship) before Wyatt did. Moreover, Wyatt has been on the main roster for close to over three years and has yet to taste singles gold! Not to fear, Wyatt's time is coming and it may be coming relatively soon. The hot rumor is that Wyatt is set to win the WWE World Championship at Elimination Chamber and will face current Wyatt Family member, Randy Orton, at WrestleMania for the strap. Whether Wyatt gets the belt at Elimination Chamber or not, he will get the Universal or World Championship at some point.
13 WON'T: Rusev
Don't feel to bad for Rusev if he never holds the WWE Universal Championship or the WWE World Championship; he's winning at life each and every day as he's married to Lana. Rusev has had two successful reigns as WWE United States Champion which have spanned over a combined 250 days. Playing the foreign heel role to a tee, Rusev does a stellar job at garnering heat from the crowd and has done so from the minute he stepped foot on the main roster in 2014. Unfortunately, Rusev's never received a rightful opportunity at the top of the card and has been viewed by WWE as a mid card talent throughout his tenure. His current pairing with Jinder Mahal to face-off against Enzo and Cass certainly isn't pointing to him entering the main event scene any time soon.
12 WON'T: Eric Young
Eric Young is currently a part of one of, if not the most intriguing stables in WWE along with Nikki Cross, Sawyer Fulton and Alexander Wolfe as they wreak havoc down in NXT as members of SAnitY. To further help Young's cause is that not only is he a member of SAnitY, but he is the leader of the faction. In addition, Young is a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion and he has also held gold in a bevy of independent promotions such as Family Wrestling Entertainment and Xtreme Wrestling Coalition. Young may have held gold in TNA and on the indy scene; but, he is nothing more than a small fish in a big pond within the WWE ranks. Furthermore, Young and SAnitY are likely headed for the tag scene, sans Cross who will obviously be headed to the women's division when/if they make the main roster.
11 WILL: Braun Strowman
At 6'8'' and 375 pounds, Braun Strowman is an absolute behemoth of a man. Fortunately for Strowman, not only does he have his imposing physique working in his favor, but he also has the majority of WWE's giants nearing the end of their career working in his favor. The Big Show is forty-four and is rumored to be retiring after WrestleMania 33. Kane is forty-nine and no longer fulfills the void of a towering and intimidating monster. Mark Henry is forty-five and he is neither an intimidating monster anymore and is also rumored to be retiring after WrestleMania 33. Strowman fills the void of the intimidating monster for WWE that they are currently missing. Not to mention, Vince McMahon is beyond high on Strowman and him wanting to book Stowman vs Brock Lesnar in the near future is a clear indication of how high McMahon is on Strowman.
10 WON'T: Austin Aries
AJ Styles and Samoa Joe are frequently recognized as being the backbone for TNA and rightfully so. While Styles and Joe were premier talents since TNA's inception, other pivotal players came along throughout the years as well. One of those talents was none other than "A Double", Austin Aries. Aries is a former 1x TNA World Heavyweight Champion and a 1x TNA Tag Team Champion with Bobby Roode. However, Aries made the most noise in TNA's X Division as he held the TNA X Division Championship on six occasions which ties him alongside Jay Lethal and AJ Styles for second most in company history. The X Division is where smaller wrestlers thrive in TNA. At 202 pounds, the Cruiserweight division is where Aries will thrive in WWE.
9 WON'T: Neville
With a reign of 287 days as NXT Champion, Newcastle, England's Neville has the second longest reign in NXT history just behind Finn Balor's reign of 292 days. Unlike Balor who is a 1x WWE Universal Champion and looks to be one who has not only entered the main event scene, but looks like a upper echelon player for years to come, Neville likely won't be entering the main event scene. Instead, the current Cruiserweight Champion has the ideal build and move set for the Cruiserweight division at 5'8'' and 194 pounds. Neville is a high flyer and can put on an exceptional technical wrestling match as well. Look for Neville to be a top guy in the Cruiserweight division for a number of years to come.
8 WILL: Samoa Joe
The thirty-seven year old from Orange County, California, Samoa Joe, had one of the most memorable runs in NXT period. He is the first 2x NXT Champion and put on extremely compelling feuds with the likes of Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn. Since he stepped foot in NXT, Joe showed how valuable he was from day one. Joe recently debuted on the main roster on January 30th, 2016 when he took out Seth Rollins by acting out as a henchman for Triple H. Joe debuted with a bang as he was instantaneously placed in a high profile feud with one of the company's biggest stars, Rollins. Joe's had success everywhere he's gone and is reportedly one of Triple H's guys which certainly bodes well for him. Look for Joe to get a run(s) on Raw and/or Smackdown at some point.
7 WON'T: Roderick Strong
When Roderick Strong first inked with WWE, his signing was met with much fanfare as he was one of the most renowned names on the independent scene prior to his signing. Strong primarily made his name in Ring of Honor (ROH) as he is a 1x World Champion, a 2x World Television Champion and a 1x World Tag Team Champion with the promotion. While Strong has a polished skill set and has been recognized by Pro Wrestling Illustrated as the number thirteen best wrestler in both 2011 and 2016, he is on the smaller side as he is just 5'10''. As a result, the writing is almost assuredly on the wall that Strong will be honing his craft in the Cruiserweight division as opposed to in the main event.
6 WON'T: Luke Harper
Luke Harper is currently in the midst of a rather intriguing face turn as he is firmly against Randy Orton, but is on the fence as to whether or not he is against Bray Wyatt. However, Harper seems to be leaning more towards the face side as he's recently teamed with John Cena to take on Orton and Wyatt. But, Harper seems to be under some kind of mind control which is preventing him from laying a finger on Wyatt. Harper's transition to the good side still needs to be hashed out and that will determine how far he'll go. Not to forget, there's no telling that he won't return to the dark side and realign himself with Wyatt. However, what is clear is that Harper isn't a main event player and his lackluster run as Intercontinental Champion is a key indicator of this.
5 WILL: Shinsuke Nakamura
The former two-time NXT Champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, is one of the most renowned names to ever wrestle for NJPW. The Mineyama, Kyoto, Japan born Nakamura's popularity has translated over well within the NXT ranks where he is arguably the promotion's most over superstar not just presently, but since he first locked up for the promotion on April 1st, 2016 against Sami Zayn. Nakamura built up a huge following prior to him inking with WWE and his star has only grown even more since departing Japan for the United States of America. Along with his worldwide popularity and upper echelon wrestling skills, Nakamura will be pushed to the moon when he departs Full Sail University for the main roster. The only asterisk Nakamura has to worry about is the English barrier which would severely diminish his ability to convey convincing promos. Despite his mic deficiencies, he possesses too much in ring talent and popularity for the WWE to not give him a run as World and/or Universal Champion.