7 Superstars Who Will Step Up in John Cena and Sheamus' Absences
With John Cena and Sheamus both recovering from injury, there is suddenly available real estate on WWE's mountaintop.
Cena's torn triceps and Sheamus' torn labrum will have them out of action for several months. Their absence changes the WWE landscape in a significant way. Two of the top babyfaces won't be around to take on the company’s vilest villains.
It's as if the Justice League has to spend half a year without Superman and The Flash.
Cena gave fans an update via Twitter.
Sheamus did the same.
While those men heal, the door swings wide open for both established stars and up-and-coming talent to perch themselves on top. Who will dominate the world title picture, main event pay-per-views and prevent Vince McMahon's company from tanking?
With choices both obvious and surprising, here are the seven Superstars who will step up with Cena and Sheamus sidelined.
Our first choice is one WWE clearly already has in mind.
John Cena shaking Daniel Bryan's hand on Monday's Raw, declaring him the legit champion before leaving Bryan to have his moment in the ring, was a symbolic gesture.
It was Cena handing Bryan the top-face baton and letting the goat-faced one run with it.
With Bryan's popularity at an all-time high and his opposition to the WWE title coming in the form of the now-despised Randy Orton and Triple H, Bryan is set up for success.
This storyline is sure to get folks feeling frustrated at how Bryan gets treated, creating pathos for the bearded hero. Once the narrative moves into the ring, Bryan will shine. He has already proven that he can produce matches worthy of the main event.
Fresh off a great showing at SummerSlam, expect Bryan to follow that up with more classics as he takes on Orton at Night of Champions and beyond.
Bryan is more than a temporary substitute. This time period will act as a tryout for the role of face of the franchise.
As a challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship, Cody Rhodes can take over Sheamus' role of workhorse who delivers great matches and endures dramatic beatings in the process.
Rhodes is the perfect blend of charming and intense, a man comfortable on the microphone and between the ropes.
His rivalry with Damien Sandow has the spotlight shining on him, but WWE can push him beyond that. He can be Alberto Del Rio's foe—the light opposing the darkness. Rhodes and Del Rio have already shown that they have fantastic chemistry together in matches like this one.
As either challenger or champion, Rhodes is set to ease the loss of Sheamus.
Rob Van Dam
The established veteran is a safe bet to place high on the WWE ladder with Sheamus and John Cena hurt.
His strange pairing with Ricardo Rodriguez may flop, but Rob Van Dam's exciting style of offense is capable of thrilling fans on Mondays, Fridays or during pay-per-views. The response for Van Dam's return has been passionate and beyond warm.
Why not take advantage of that while he's still producing at a high level?
He can join Cody Rhodes in contention for the World Heavyweight Championship or the company can toss him in as one of Daniel Bryan's partners against the conglomerate of McMahon, Randy Orton and Triple H.
Either way, fans are assured of risky, creative moves with a dose of nostalgia as Van Dam steps up in a top role.
WWE has already painted Dolph Ziggler as a man brustling against Triple H's authority. In an interview with WWE.com (above), Ziggler said that he "never really trusted" Triple H.
The guts, resiliency and top-notch selling he displayed in his handicap match on Raw against The Shield is exactly why he can be a top guy alongside Daniel Bryan. The World's Toughest Vegan is going to need some help as he goes up against The Corporation 2.0.
Ziggler's energy and sense of humor can add depth to upcoming segments. As for in-ring action, Ziggler is among the most complete performers on the roster—quick, adept at grappling, a showman and an impressive athlete.
Ziggler taking on Randy Orton, Triple H and/or members of The Shield has excitement written all over it.
One of WWE's safer options in replacing John Cena and Sheamus is a guy who has already been in that spot.
CM Punk has been the world champ and later the WWE champ for more than a year. He's the kind of guy WWE can throw out to the crowd with a microphone to fill a good chunk of TV time in entertaining fashion.
Ask the fan who booed him on Monday's Raw.
His recent work against Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker has felt like the main event regardless of when those matches went on and without the benefit of championships.
Focusing more on Punk's story with Paul Heyman is not only a surefire way to compel the audience, but it should also elevate Curtis Axel. Heyman's new female client, speculated on by F4WOnline.com (h/t WrestlingInc.com), would benefit from this as well.
The Prime Time Players
Darren Young and Titus O'Neil aren't going to main event any of the next few pay-per-views, but with more time to go around, The Prime Time Players could certainly be a bigger focus of WWE programming.
The team is apparently working as a fan favorite, as evidenced by its victory over The Real Americans on Monday's Raw.
As funny and entertaining as O'Neil and Young are, it's surprising how long it took to turn them face. WWE can rely on them for entertaining segments and solid in-ring action.
With a touch of ridiculousness and their infectious energy, The Prime Time Players can appeal to the younger demographic in John Cena's absence.