In the words of Jim Ross, who hired the Minnesota native, Brock Lesnar is arguably the most naturally gifted athlete in WWE history and a bona fide household name. Following a successful amateur wrestling career, he would become the (then) youngest WWE Champion ever after being on the main roster for only five months. He has not only conquered the wrestling world, as a former UFC Heavyweight Champion he has even succeeded in the realm of legitimate fighting.
Since returning to the WWE in 2012, Lesnar has been utilized as a big box office attraction for the company. Wrestling mostly on the ‘Big Four’ pay-per-view events, he has become more of a showcase than a roster member with high profile feuds pitting him against John Cena, Triple H and CM Punk.
Lesnar’s stock was set to get stronger than ever as he became the man to end The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak in April. The next time he stepped into the ring was to decimate ‘The Face of the WWE’ John Cena at SummerSlam, where he captured the WWE Championship for a fourth time.
Brock has made only one championship defence, at September’s Night of Champions event, and he has not been seen since. Looked at as an unstoppable monster, toppling Lesnar will be a tremendous achievement. With the champ’s contract expiring in January and reported struggles in negotiations, we decided to look at the top 10 contenders to dethrone ‘The Beast Incarnate’ to become the next WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
Back in February the former Claudio Castagnoli was on his way to be one of the hottest acts in the entire WWE. Defeating Randy Orton and taking John Cena to the limit on his path to the Elimination Chamber, the fans were rooting behind one half of the Real Americans. This trajectory continued to WrestleMania where he won the André the Giant Battle Royal and broke free of his protégées Jack Swagger and Zeb Coulter to embrace the WWE Universe.
The following night he would align himself with Paul Heyman, and slowly turn his back once more on the fandom he had built up. Since then Cesaro has been on a downward spiral, punctuated by his silent split from Heyman. A man with Cesaro’s in-ring ability would not find it difficult to recapture support if he decided to go after his former associate and his client, and he is one of the few superstars who can be viewed as a physical counterpart for Lesnar.
9 Randy Orton
There is never a moment in time that Randy Orton is not a credible threat to the WWE Championship. The third generation superstar is a 12-time world champion, and was the man to unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships one year ago.
Orton has recently just turned on The Authority and when he returns from shooting The Condemned 2 he will be looking to get revenge and prove that he is still the present of the WWE. Taking the WWE Championship from Lesnar would be a great way to stick it to Rollins and Triple H.
Additionally, Orton was the man who took Lesnar’s mantle as youngest WWE Champion ever, so Lesnar himself would have a motive to face The Viper for only the second time ever.
The Bulgarian Brute and current United States Champion has run through the roster since debuting back at the Royal Rumble and is still yet to be pinned or made to submit. It is unlikely that there are any plans to end the anti-American act any time soon, meaning that the WWE Universe will be looking for someone to step up.
Who better to defend the honour of the United States than the WWE World Heavyweight Champion? Few would expect Rusev to receive such a big moment of toppling Brock Lesnar and become a double champion within his first year and that element of surprise would create an even bigger monster heel for the fans to want toppled.
7 Seth Rollins
Since turning his back on his Shield brothers Rollins has been on a seemingly endless rise. He has quickly established himself as the top heel in the company with only one exception, the part-timer who just happens to hold the top prize: Brock Lesnar.
Mr Money in the Bank has already had fans believing once that he was set to take Lesnar’s championship. Back at Night of Champions Rollins interfered and attempted to cash in his briefcase, however his attempt was thwarted by an angry John Cena. Rollins did apologise the following night but he has openly admitted that he loves being the centre of attention and doesn't care who he steps on to get there. With The Authority behind him, Rollins wouldn't hesitate to cash in on Lesnar again if it gives him the opportunity to win his first singles championship on the main roster.
‘The Big Guy’ has only been back a matter of weeks but he has immediately regained the popularity he had at the height of his push in 2012. With crowds happily chanting “Feed me more” WWE has the opportunity to correct where they faltered on his original push and establish him as a true wrecking ball and a modern Ultimate Warrior character.
Ryback is currently one of the main focuses in the big Survivor Series main event, so it wouldn't be a stretch for him to receive a championship opportunity sometime in the near future. If WWE were to fully invest, he could dominate the Royal Rumble and set up a monster clash for WrestleMania.
5 Daniel Bryan
Until proven otherwise, Bryan is still the most over man in the company, and potentially the entire wrestling world. Despite the best efforts of the company, Bryan took over WrestleMania XXX due to his crazy levels of fan support. Unfortunately years of a “break neck” style of wrestling came back to punish Bryan at just the wrong time, side-lining him for multiple surgeries and forcing him to relinquish his newly won WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Bryan is surely entitled a shot at the title he never lost whenever he gets back in the ring and facing Lesnar would be the ultimate David vs. Goliath clash. The biggest roadblock for Bryan is WWE management, who still don’t appear to want to invest in the smaller superstar despite the insane levels of crowd support but if the fans rally against his mistreatment the way they did at the Royal Rumble then a repeat performance may be forced. If he wasn't currently sidelined, he'd be higher on this list.
4 The Rock
Brock Lesnar’s originally scheduled opponent for WrestleMania XXX wasn’t The Undertaker at all. It was actually WWE’s other big showcase attraction, The Rock. The night after WrestleMania 29 Lesnar was supposed to attack ‘The Great One’ and set up a year-long feud. However, during his WrestleMania main event with John Cena, The Rock suffered injuries that ruled him out of appearing.
A year later, Rock vs. Brock would still be a massive box office draw. The two have only faced off once before, at SummerSlam 2002 which crowned Lesnar as the youngest WWE Champion at the time. Their second clash could see a Rock victory to tie them and set up a big third match. However, with fans already having struggled with having a part-time champion both when The Rock won the title in 2013 and Lesnar now, there would be a question on whether fans would invest in the idea of their clashes being for the championship.
3 Dean Ambrose
Despite WWE’s best efforts to push Roman Reigns, the fan favourite in the break-up of The Shield has been ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ Dean Ambrose. His feud with Seth Rollins was the most exciting of the entire summer in wrestling and fans are firmly behind the unpredictable anti-hero.
Due to his issues with Rollins and The Authority, there is only one way that Ambrose would get a shot at Lesnar’s championship: winning the Royal Rumble. Many fans and former wrestlers have likened Ambrose to three-time Rumble winner Stone Cold Steve Austin, and with WWE currently lacking in top stars, pulling the trigger on him would provide the exciting change the product needs right now.
2 John Cena
Also known as the safety option, John Cena is WWE’s go-to guy for anything. With the ratings low and the WWE Network struggling to achieve the McMahon’s lofty aims, WWE is probably looking for a quick fix. As for Cena himself, the character is looking for retribution after Lesnar brutalized him at SummerSlam.
Cena is the current number one contender for whenever Lesnar returns, and the current rumours point towards the match taking place at the Royal Rumble. The only thing in question is the outcome, which is hinged on the contract negotiations between Lesnar and the company. If his deal is not extended, the Rumble will be his final event and he will presumably drop the belt to Cena. If a deal is reached, he will be expected to retain and drop the championship at WrestleMania instead to the following man.
1 Roman Reigns
WWE has not been shy on their choice for the current ‘next big thing’. At last year’s Survivor Series, Reigns was the sole survivor and claimed the record for the most eliminations at a single event, and in January he went on to break Kane’s elimination record at the Royal Rumble, eliminating 12 superstars. Since The Shield fell apart, Reigns has focused his attention squarely on The Authority, and mostly at Triple H.
Storyline wise he is in the same position as Ambrose. He would require a Royal Rumble win to set up a championship match and that is where all predictions and reports are leaning. His injury has created a minor setback but he is expected to be healthy in time for January. A bigger problem for Reigns is the flat crowd reaction he has received, as the fans are nowhere near as excited for him as the company themselves. WWE is very headstrong though and there is little chance of them deviating from their plans to invest in Reigns just yet. Believe that.