Now that Sheamus seems to have conclusively seen off Alberto Del Rio at Night of Champions, wrestling fans are eager to see what the WWE has in store next for the World Heavyweight Championship.
While Sheamus is in fact now the longest reigning holder of the title since 2008, it doesn't feel like he's been champion for all that long—perhaps because he's faced so few competitors for the belt. After a stale and overlong feud with Del Rio, the title scene is screaming out for new competition.
So let's have a look at who might challenge for the Great White's Big Gold Belt.
Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio may have reason to mount another challenge after the last-minute reinstatement of the Brogue Kick, but I for one couldn't take another month of build just to see Sheamus go over him again, and I doubt the WWE will go with it for a fourth time.
Rey could theoretically be a legitimate contender, but while he's tied up tagging with Sin Cara and the WWE is determined to make Sheamus a top face, it's unlikely.
Sheamus is effectively the new WWE superman, and when you consider his Brogue Kick now acts as Cena's five moves of doom in just one move, you can see the similarities between the two superstars. While it would be interesting to see who goes over, Cena's both injured for a few weeks and embroiled in competition for the WWE Championship.
The Big Red Machine could have been a strong and worthy opponent, but his new, immensely well-received angle with Daniel Bryan will likely see him away for world title contention for some time.
Rhodes could be a worthy contender, but he's looked too weak lately and already fought a losing effort against Sheamus on SmackDown recently.
The current Money in the Bank holder really ought to be kept away from the title to make his eventual cash-in all the more surprising—and he's already lost to Sheamus for the championship at No Way Out.
At Extreme Rules this year, The Miz lost the US Championship match to Santino Marella, marking the lowest point in over a year for the must-see superstar.
Since returning however, it seems the WWE has renewed faith in him, having given him the Intercontinental Championship almost immediately and then very impressive successful defences against Rey Mysterio at SummerSlam and in a Fatal Four Way at Night of Champions.
Cody Rhodes, while Intercontinental Champion, spoke a couple of times of "doing an Ultimate Warrior" and holding both the IC and world titles at the same time. Perhaps The Miz may get a shot at achieving it instead.
Talk of unifying the the two world championships has been frequent among fans since the effective end of brand extension last year.
While I'm happy with the pseudo brand extension and there being two world championships (there's enough top talent to justify them), if the WWE wanted to do it then now's a good time.
With John Cena out of action for 4-6 weeks and likely to miss Hell in a Cell, his feud with CM Punk will be on hold—leaving the WWE Champion in need of a new challenger. What's more, a new design for the WWE title is meant to be debuting at some point, and this could serve as the new Undisputed Championship.
Having hinted at a feud between them on Raw recently, where better than Hell in a Cell for CM Punk vs. Sheamus to unify the wold titles?
Mark Henry's been out for some time, but should he return soon he could be a very credible contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. His world title run last year was unfortunately cut short by injury, but he was shaping up to be one of the most memorable monster heels of all time.
Before winning the title from Randy Orton, Henry had a short and inconclusive feud with Sheamus. Each man got one countout victory against the other, so to see the two lock horns again over the strap would be very interesting.
A problem with Sheamus's recent superman status is that few seem like they could mount a genuine challenge, but Mark Henry would certainly seem threatening enough.
When Christian appeared on screen to give testimony that Sheamus' Brogue Kick was dangerous, it was the first time we'd seen him for a few weeks—and this reminder of the previous association between the two could reignite a feud.
Owing to the deal TNA made with the WWE over Ric Flair's Hall of Fame appearance, Christian will be appearing at their Bound for Glory pay-per-view. It's rumoured that this is the reason for his huge depush from the Intercontinental Championship and reduced television.appearances, to keep his profile low and his appearance for the rival promotion less significant.
Hell in a Cell will be a fortnight after Bound for Glory, so it's possible Christian could challenge for the world title, though it's unlikely given the build up would have to be so short. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be surprised to see Captain Charisma in contention for the strap after this.
The Big Show hasn't been seen much since he took the pin in the WWE Championship Triple Threat match at SummerSlam. Since turning heel, he's been vastly more credible, and if the WWE went with it he'd certainly seem like a plausible challenger.
The Big Show is likely near the end of his career, and though he has held all current championships in the WWE available, his World Heavyweight Championship reign was only 45 seconds as Daniel Bryan then cashed in his Money in the Bank.
Though I wouldn't expect Sheamus vs. Big Show to be a quality match, he is still a main event-level contender at the moment, and the WWE could use him to put Sheamus over further or else give him a final world title reign before retirement.
Randy Orton may be the highest-level contender who could believably challenge Sheamus that the WWE hasn't fully pulled the trigger on.
The two have had some exchanges since Sheamus became champion. Randy Orton competed in the Fatal Four Way for the title at Over the Limit, and Sheamus got the better of him in a non-title match on SmackDown. Though Randy Orton seems a little less dangerous since tapping out to Alberto Del Rio on TV, a victory over him could establish Sheamus as the top face for the blue brand.
Orton's recent suspension may be the reason the match hasn't happened already, and he may be off for some time soon filming a movie. However, after defeating Dolph Ziggler at Night of Champions, he's certainly keeping himself in the title picture.
There's long been talk of Wade Barrett being the next contender for the World Heavyweight Championship upon his return, and now he's back. The former Nexus leader fought in several world title matches during his time with the group, but never won.
The good thing about Wade Barrett is that not only would he be a fresh face in the world title scene, but his long absence since the Raw after the Royal Rumble makes him all the more interesting. He's been a legitimate main eventer before, and many people feel this is his time. Having been greatly hyped with promos before his return and given two easy wins since, it seems the WWE may think so too.
After a long program with Alberto Del Rio that no one seemed to enjoy, the World Heavyweight Championship scene is in desperate need of new competition. Now that that feud is almost certainly over, this is an exciting time as we see who the WWE has lined up to face Sheamus next. Whoever it is, I can't wait to find out.
Who do you think should be next in line for a shot at the championship? Is there anyone I've missed who you think could mount a challenge? Have your say in the comments.