Who’s Next?

The question that looms over the RAW roster every week in light what happened at WrestleMania is…..just who is gonna beat Brock Lesnar? With Roman Reigns having gotten two shots at him in a month and not winning, after a year long buildup, me and most of you seem to have no idea. And sometimes a lot of us openly wonder if even Vince has any idea right now. There are some candidates, and it would crazy to not try and flesh them out and their chances. So here we go:

Finn Balor

Reasons in favor: First and foremost, Finn was the first ever Universal champion. So far there have only been four, three of whom are still active. In addition to that they think enough of him to have had him go over clean against Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and AJ Styles at different points of the last year and a half. So clearly there are some people in the back who at least have him on the list of possible top guys for the company. He’s a good enough worker to trust in the ring with anyone on the roster, so that’s not an issue, either. From a pure storyline standpoint he was never beaten for the Universal Title and never got a rematch either; that’s a card they’ve been waiting for the right time to play but who knows if they ever will. And lastly Finn beating Brock Lesnar would look like a huge upset due to the size differential and could make for a great story in itself.

Reasons against: Back to that size differential. Can you honestly formulate Finn Balor beating Brock Lesnar in any situation that doesn’t include outside interference of some kind? I mean seriously. It wouldn’t even be that realistic if you were playing the matchup on WWE 2K18. You can say it doesn’t matter but come on.

Chances of it happening: I got it at 10%. Maybe Finn will get a victory when Brock is finally on his ‘put guys over one last time while heading out the door’ phase, but not right now.

Seth Rollins

Reasons in favor: Seth is red hot right now as the Intercontinental Champion, and it looks like he’s finally found his groove characterwise. He’s also has a good bit of crossover cred between indie wrestling enthusiasts and WWE only fans. He’s been WWE World Champion before and was a face of the company in 2015. I think he would be a guy that every part of the fanbase is at least ok with. While he isn’t a ‘big guy’, he’s big enough to not look like a joke if he’s in the ring with Brock. You can construct a Seth Rollins victory over Brock in your mind a lot easier than with Finn. Lastly, Seth is another guy who can have good matches with everyone on the roster. There are multiple possibilities already set up for title defenses after his crowning – with Finn, Roman, Dean (when he comes back), a heel Jason Jordan even. And that’s not including a random great TV match he could have with someone like Chad Gable. Plenty of reasons to pull the trigger here.

Reasons not to: Really just one from where I’m sitting. The balance sheet. I’m willing to bet that if you were given the chance for a pitch meeting with the WWE braintrust and sold Seth as well as you possibly could to them, they would respond by showing you the numbers. Namely how they did business wise when he was World Champion in 2015 and how they’ve done since. Contrary to what you’re constantly told by various YouTubers and podcasters, if the financial case was there to put Seth back on top they would have probably done it already. While I am a Roman Reigns fan I know good and well they’d much rather have someone on top who gets the reactions on TV that they want than not, and that if there was someone like that who also brought in the same amount of money they would have made the switch already.

Chances of it happening: 25%. Seth is a great dark horse candidate. I don’t think many people would be upset if it happens and plenty of people would like it. But my guess is that unless the money train starts running with him the way it does with a few other guys they’re going to keep him in this spot for a while because it’s working so well. I think he will wear the title one day but I don’t see him being the man to unseat Brock Lesnar.

Intermission Time

Now before I get to the rest of the list, I need to elaborate some more on the cases of Balor and Rollins. Seth in particular has been getting a lot of positivity on social media over the past couple of weeks. He’s been doing great in his spot as Intercontinental Champion and has been getting good reactions every week for a while now. So why is it so unlikely that he’ll get to dethrone Lesnar? Well, here are some numbers. Seth’s match with Balor this past Monday has, as of the time I’m writing this, 1.2 million views on the WWE YouTube channel. By contrast the six man tag match with Roman, Bobby Lashley, and Braun Strowman vs Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal has 2.4 million views. This is pretty consistent with previous weeks in that Seth’s matches have gotten half as many or less than half as many views as segments involving Roman, Braun, and more recently Ronda Rousey.

That’s not the only number that matters, but it does in that it’s not a captive situation. When you’re watching the show live you eithet watch what’s in front of you or change the channel, and if you’re in the building you either sit and watch or get up and leave. Choosing a YouTube video is a 100 percent voluntary act of the person watching. Nobody’s forcing twice as many people to watch someone else, and no one’s forcing half of the people who watch someone else to skip watching Seth and Finn. Until that gap gets closed in a positive way then you’re going to have a hard time convincing Vince and co. to put Seth and/or Finn ahead of Roman or Braun.

“But it’s just YouTube videos!!!” Yes, you’re right. It’s just one metric. But it’s a pretty decent indicator of how interest in each person is spread across various platforms. I did a twitter search on the hashtags #braunstrowman, #romareigns and #sethrollins, and got 770, 250 , and 100 as of this point on the day I’m writing this. (Leave the # out and Braun drops significantly while the others stay as is). Here are the google trends results for Rollins, Reigns, Strowman, and Daniel Bryan for the past year. I’m not going to run through every format and platform, but that’s three different places that require some choice and aren’t just a matter of you taking what’s given. Then throw in the merch sales, which are real dollars spent and not just clicks, and boom. I spent a few minutes looking that up for a blog post so you can bet that the WWE folks are spending a lot more effort into getting all the data available to see who people are interested in. And they do act on it as you can see.

If you’re a big fan of Rollins or Finn the best thing you can do to help them is get active and watch some videos, be it on YouTube or the Network, and open your wallet. Both of them have new T-shirts out there so if you haven’t already, buy one if you can.

OK, on with the show…..

Bobby Lashley

Reasons to do it: Bobby looks the part of someone who could go toe to toe with Brock and come out victorious. He also has an MMA background which makes him a more realistic sell to the masses. And hey, there’s no way they brought him back and no way he came back just to do tag matches with Braun Strowman. He’d probably have a short run with the belt but using him to get it off of Brock is something a lot of people could live with as long as he didn’t keep it too long.

Reasons not to: Who cares about Bobby Lashley? No offense, I got no quarrel with the guy. But who was pining for him to come back, and who’s pining for him now? Outside of the ‘Anyone but Roman’ crowd who would be satisfied with a Bobby Lashley victory? Obviously that can change over the weeks and months ahead but I just don’t see it right now.

Chances of it happening: 50%. He looks the part and they didn’t sign him for nothing. If they get desperate enough they can put him in with Roman to get him temporarily over although the idea of them using Roman to heat yet another guy up is irritating. But my guess is that he’s penciled in for a title shot at Summerslam or some other pay per view show this year, and there’s a decent chance he’ll walk away from it with the belt.

Braun Strowman

Reasons to do it: He’s the most over guy on the roster! Ok seriously, he moves the needle, he gets the right reactions on TV, and he more than looks the part of someone who could take down Brock Lesnar. Putting the belt on Braun seems like the biggest no brainer in some time.

Reasons not to: Braun winning the title would be great. Braun defending the title……..not so much. Even though he has improved a lot he’s still pretty limited in the ring. Last year he was mostly protected in multiman matches, tag matches and the like. When he had one on one matches the results were mostly pedestrian affairs; the only good ones were with Roman and Big Show. So after you get away with what will probably be a mediocre first defense what do you do? Back to the Fatal 4 Ways until it’s time to throw Roman at him again. You can’t have him go three or four months with him in singles matches unless you want people to get bored or half your top guys to get buried.

Chance of it happening: 50% It’s a easy call for a cheap easy pop, and if it happens at Summerslam you can smoke and mirror your way to November and just put him in a tag match for Survivor Series, then burn off a title match in December. That will get you to January where you can have a throwaway defense at the Royal Rumble. It’s actually not as impossible as it seemed at first. So that being said the biggest obstacle is probably whether Vince thinks he’s better off just wrecking stuff and chasing the title or as the actual champion. And there’s no real inidcation that giving the internet what it wants translates into real dollars.

Roman Reigns

Reasons to do it: Basically it would be a make up for what they should have done at WrestleMania. Better late than never.

Reasons not to: I don’t need to run through them. Basically the Roman haters will replay their greatest hits at 10 times the volume.

Chances of it happening: 50% Either they say ‘my bad about WrestleMania’ or they don’t. If they do, he’ll get the title. If not he won’t.

Someone else

I’m not going to fantasy book too hard and bring someone over from Smackdown to do it. Basically what I’m thinking here is that a RAW guy wins Money in the Bank and takes advantage after someone like Braun or Lashley lays him out one night. But who would that be? Who’s weaselly enough to capitalize on that kind of thing? I can only think of two guys. One is Elias, and I don’t think they’re going to take that plunge this early. The other one? Oh, I know you don’t want him:

I on the other hand, would laugh my behind off and enjoy every minute of it.

So what happens?

I honestly don’t know. My money would be on Roman or Braun, with Lashley as a possibility. We’ll see what happens.

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