Potential is a funny thing in sports. Many of us try to gauge who has the most potential to make a run as a world champion, with just as many projections about when it’s going to happen and how many titles they will win. In the world of professional wrestling, it’s a little bit different with more championship matchups than other team sports, which in turn allows for more title changes.
In fact, the year 2016 has already seen the WWE World Heavyweight Championship change hands five different times with four different title holders – Roman Reigns, Triple H, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. However, with the upcoming brand split that begins with the WWE Draft on July 19 on the first live episode of SmackDown, the opportunity for several WWE superstars to reach their desired potential of being a world heavyweight champion will increase. It's looking like the WWE will have two world titles, which opens up many possibilities for wrestlers on the roster.
The qualifications for this list is to have never won a world championship in the WWE – which includes the two separate championships during the original brand split between 2002 and 2012. Wrestlers who have won world championships for other promotions are still eligible for being included, as long as they haven’t won that type of championship during their time in the WWE.
15 Apollo Crews
There have been articles that have praised Apollo Crews for having a unique set of physical tools that should potentially lead to him finding success in the WWE. Crews has the look of a powerhouse but the agility of a cruiserweight, which allows him to be a true hybrid athlete perfect to capture the interest of fans in the next generation of the WWE. There is a good chance he will be a world champion at some point down the road.
14 Bobby Roode
At the moment, Bobby Roode is not currently on the WWE or NXT roster. However, it’s starting to look more likely that he will make his official television debut very soon after having competed during last month’s NXT tour in the United Kingdom. It is highly likely that any stint in the NXT brand would be a temporary visit before making a move to the main roster since he’s getting closer to the age of 40 and the time is ticking on the prime years of his professional wrestling career.
13 Luke Harper
Since Bray Wyatt and his family have debuted in the WWE main roster in the summer of 2013, the only person from the faction to have won a championship was Luke Harper – the Intercontinental Championship in November 2014. While one of the most bizarre looking wrestlers on the roster, he’s been one of the best big men of the modern era who has just enough of a different look to stand out.
12 Big E
Don’t be too sour on the concept of Big E becoming a world heavyweight champion in the WWE. It wasn’t too long ago that he was a cult favorite in NXT with the infamous five-count to end matches – a gimmick that would be great to see return on the main roster. While his personality was a little bit lacking when he first came up to the main roster, he has shown a different side of himself as part of The New Day.
11 Austin Aries
There’s a reason that Austin Aries has won world heavyweight championships for Ring of Honor and TNA Wrestling, while also have been ranked near the top 10 of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s rankings in recent years. Over the years wrestling on the independent circuits and around the world, Aries has evolved with a mixture of technical holds, dives, flips and strikes and could possibly add more to his arsenal before making the jump from NXT to the main roster.
While there are a number of different athletes who have a unique skill set, Neville might be one of the most fascinating aerial artists in the WWE ring currently. The Newcastle born wrestler comes from the United Kingdom after years of wrestling for several independent wrestling promotions both in the United States and Europe. When signed to join the NXT brand in WWE, there might have been concerns with how his style would be changed in WWE.
9 Sami Zayn
The Underdog from the Underground has been able to establish a loyal fan base everywhere he has wrestled around the world – whether as a masked luchador in Ring of Honor or the current Sami Zayn character seen in the WWE that has won the NXT Championship. The current worry about Zayn is that he could end up in mid-card purgatory like many wrestlers of his physical build like Christian.
8 Shinsuke Nakamura
There have been a number of great wrestlers to come from Asia that include names like Taka Michinoku and Tajiri. However, none of them have ever won a world championship in the WWE. While many would believe that Hideo Itami (formerly known as Kenta) could have the potential to be a top star in the WWE, that was before Shinsuke Nakamura was signed to NXT earlier this year. In all honesty, Nakamura has a much more captivating character than Itami.
One of the most classic types of characters to have success as a villainous heel in professional wrestling history is the anti-American gimmick. So far, it has helped elevate the importance of the WWE United States Championship as Rusev has been the perfect heel to carry the red, white and blue title belt. There’s a lot to like about Rusev with being not only a large and powerful athlete, but someone who has plenty of athleticism to handle competing in longer, main event matches to finish the night.
While maybe not the most gifted on the microphone, Cesaro could be given a change in character over the next few years to help him receive the final piece of the puzzle to be a bonafide main event superstar in the WWE. Despite being a little boring in some of the promos he has done to help hype the Money in the Bank ladder match he competed in in June, he does have everything one could physically ask for from a top-level WWE superstar.
5 Finn Balor
One of the current NXT superstars who has a great chance of making an immediate impact upon the eventual main roster debut is Finn Balor, who has essentially everything one could ask a superstar. He has the in-ring abilities and has already put together memorable five-star matches since coming to the WWE’s developmental brand. In fact, he has helped put NXT on tour across the country with main event matches with guys like Kevin Owens.
4 Kevin Owens
Speaking of NXT alumni who have the potential to make a huge impact in the WWE, Kevin Owens also comes to mind. He’s already established himself as one of the top heels in the company and he’s done it in a way that has allowed him to be likeable within the fan base. While he’s trolled many fans, other superstars and even commentators like Michael Cole, Owens has done it with a unique personality that has been a breath of fresh air in the WWE.
3 Bray Wyatt
There are many who feel that Bray Wyatt has not been utilized in the best way by the WWE’s creative team. While that is up for an understandable debate that has more weight to it than a semi-truck, Wyatt could soon be on the right path towards establishing himself as a top heel in the company. A brand split might be the best thing to happen for the Eater of Worlds. Having one roster that has a large number of high-ceiling talents and only so many top spots could be a factor.
2 Samoa Joe
Similar to a number of TNA legends who have made the surprising transition to the WWE roster through the NXT brand in WWE, Samoa Joe has the potential to put together a five-star match any given night. Not having the typical wrestler physique that once ruled the WWE in the original brand split, Joe has shown all around the world that looks aren’t everything when it comes to someone who can hit moves like a cruiserweight – a very large, 280-pound cruiserweight.
1 AJ Styles
Despite being an older veteran in the world of professional wrestling, AJ Styles has essentially succeeded everywhere he has gone around the world – ROH, TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling to name a few. Styles has already been given a push that started as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble near the beginning of the year. While having lost at WrestleMania to Chris Jericho, he’s had some of his best matches against Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Having two world championships in the WWE would easily benefit someone like Styles, who has shown he not only belongs in the world title picture, but also someone who could carry the gold and draw fans wherever the WWE tours around the world. Considering Styles' age at 39, the chances of him winning a few world championships are among the most likely within the next few years. Styles would also be the perfect champion for feuds with many of the other wrestlers on this list – mostly in part to the familiarity he has with wrestlers like Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura and Kevin Owens.
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