There is a lot of talk going around the WWE Universe about the SummerSlam match between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins to decide who will be the first to hold the brand new WWE Universal Championship. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with a second main event championship, Raw’s new heavyweight championship will lend to a new era of WWE and will feature two superstars who are very much expected to play big roles in that new era of professional wrestling.
While the future should have a few superstars as the main part of the roster’s foundation, fans don’t want to see the same two people alternating as champions. Sure, Balor and Rollins are likely to win multiple championships moving forward over the next five years. Rollins has already done that with winning the WWE Tag Team Championship, the United States Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Balor could be the next big star as the fans have already embraced him as a main event talent.
The following is a list of the first 15 WWE Universal Champions, starting with my prediction for the WWE SummerSlam match between Rollins and Balor, and then proceeding to each subsequent winner thereafter. Read below to see who will likely become the chronological belt holders over the next three to five years, starting with the winner at SummerSlam 2016.
15 Seth Rollins
Even though there is a lot of buzz around the longest reigning NXT Champion in Finn Balor, there might be some legitimate concerns with how fast he is being pushed towards the main event picture. While he is going to help make the match a five-star main event, Balor isn’t the right choice to be the first man to become the first WWE Universal Champion. Looking at the year of 2015, Seth Rollins showed everyone he is worthy of being the top star on the Raw roster.
14 Finn Balor
Now might not be the right time for the Demon King to become the WWE Universal Champion. However, Balor could be primed to be developed into a big star over the next few months, which can eventually lead to a championship rematch with Rollins either at the end of this year or as a way to kick off the road to WrestleMania at the Royal Rumble. Having Balor win at a major pay-per-view after having some time to develop the resume that truly earns him the championship opportunity is definitely the way to go.
13 Kevin Owens
If there is anyone currently on the WWE roster who knows what it is truly like to go to war with Balor, it’s the company’s self-proclaimed prize fighter. Kevin Owens might not look like the greatest physical specimen the WWE Universe has ever seen, but that’s what has driven him up until this point. He is one of the best to speak on the microphone and is deserving of soon being a main event star.
12 Sami Zayn
No matter how many “final battles” these two have, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are destined to fight forever. That’s okay with members of the WWE Universe since the two have been able to work together so well. Part of what makes their rivalry so enjoyable is that the two were best friends on the independent circuit – most notably with Ring of Honor. Owens would become the ROH World Champion as Zayn was the first to get the call to WWE before his former tag team partner.
11 Braun Strowman
Sami Zayn’s run as the WWE Universal Champion might feel very close to the World Heavyweight Championship run Rey Mysterio had back in 2006 after the emotional win in honor of Eddie Guerrero. But while the underdog from the underground would be a great story for the WWE if he can hold onto the belt for a few months, there are certain superstars who Zayn wouldn’t be able to handle.
10 Brock Lesnar
Considering how the WWE holds Brock Lesnar in such high regard – enough to not punish him for the failed U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug tests before UFC 200 – the officials are eventually going to put championship gold around his waist. With Strowman being built as the top giant in the WWE, there might be this belief he is an unstoppable monster that cannot be taken down by normal WWE superstars. But Brock Lesnar is not someone who can be considered “normal.”
9 Bray Wyatt
This is one of the first examples of someone making the switch from one brand to another, which can lead to new main event stars flourishing from the change of scenery. The Eater of Worlds will finally be reunited with much of his Wyatt Family, which will definitely help him in possibly winning his first championship in the WWE – albeit, it a few years later than many fans would have hoped for.
Fans also can’t expect that the WWE would want to keep a championship belt around someone who works on a part-time schedule. They did that before and fans weren’t really happy about it. Lesnar would need to have a short run with the championship and this would be a great time to really show how unique Wyatt is as someone who could have the personality that allows him to have a mental advantage against the Beast Incarnate.
8 Roman Reigns
It was mentioned that Wyatt’s run as the WWE Universal Champion wouldn’t be very long. One person who has been able to stand up to the Eater of Worlds and get past his mind games is Roman Reigns. While Reigns is someone the fans haven’t really fallen in love with as the company tried to push him through the boos during the main event of WrestleMania 32, giving him time to be the United States Champion will help him develop into a true fan favorite.
7 Seth Rollins (2)
In true villainous fashion, it would be possible that the WWE allows Rollins to remain relevant as a championship contender while all of these different WWE superstars are having their runs with the WWE Universal Championship. The best way would be to have Rollins hold the Money in the Bank briefcase after winning the annual ladder match. Rollins would then have a chance to join the ranks of another great heel in Edge.
6 John Cena
Some of you may not be big fans of this idea, but John Cena is deserving of at least tying – if not eventually breaking – Ric Flair’s record of 16 world heavyweight championship reigns. Over the course of the past few years, the leader of Cenation has improved leaps and bounds in the ring. There was never any question about how good he was on the microphone or how dedicated he was to being the best role model possible for the younger WWE fans.
5 Seth Rollins (3)
The party for Cena in making professional wrestling history would be short-lived as Rollins is likely going to bounce back quickly with utilizing his rematch clause to reclaim the WWE Universal Championship. Rollins would probably use some type of villainous tactic to get the championship win. Doing so would allow the WWE to create a third round to act as the rubber match during this Rollins-Cena feud for this type of championship gold.
It is only a matter of time before Cesaro is finally earning main event championship gold. How many five-star quality matches do the WWE officials need to see before they come to the realization that they have a top notch athlete on their roster? One might have felt Cesaro would have been better suited for success on the SmackDown brand, but the WWE does consider him worthy of being on their "A "show as part of the red brand.
3 Finn Balor (2)
With the viewership of the WWE continuing to evolve, the company should have a true international match-up with some of the best talents on the roster. Cesaro would be the type of champion who has shown resiliency in top notch matches against the likes of Rollins, Reigns and other superstars. One of the marquee match-ups that would provide fans with some amazing spots would be having Cesaro defend the WWE Universal Championship against Balor, who would be looking for his second run with Raw’s top championship.
2 Samoa Joe
Just like Balor’s first run with the WWE Universal Championship will be ended by someone who has a long history with the Demon King, the second run will best be ended by a superstar who has defeated him during their heated wars for the NXT Championship. Samoa Joe is a world-wide veteran who is an extremely unique talent that is known for his strikes and his technical submissions.
1 Shinsuke Nakamura
The WWE is going to have an influx of experienced superstars over the next few years and the company is going to want to take their time in bringing them up to becoming championship contenders. One of the big projects that WWE will have is helping develop Shinsuke Nakamura as becoming the first Japanese world champion in WWE history – which seems to be quite the shame when you think about the storied history of professional wrestling and the Land of the Rising Sun.
If the WWE pushes Nakamura just right, they can develop him into a program similar to the one with Samoa Joe currently underway in the NXT developmental brand. A match-up between the two could be worthy of being a potential main event at WrestleMania a few years down the road, which will have been done well enough after the fans have gotten used to them being on the main roster and earning wins against other top WWE superstars.
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