Dark-Horse Candidates to Challenge John Cena for World Heavyweight Championship

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterOctober 30, 2013

Dark-Horse Candidates to Challenge John Cena for World Heavyweight Championship

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    Photo: WWE.com

    In terms of John Cena's latest World Heavyweight Championship reign, the more barbarians charging the gate, the better.

    It's clear that Alberto Del Rio is getting a rematch with Cena and that Damien Sandow, despite failing to successfully cash in his Money in the Bank contract, will be a major player in the world title scene. Beyond those two, who else on the WWE roster would make a worthy challenger?

    Two currently inactive Superstars, a monster on the rise and a former Cena rival, comprise the list of potential dark-horse candidates.

    Factoring in what makes them more of a long shot than Del Rio and Sandow, such as injuries or inexperience, here's a look at five Superstars who would make compelling foes for Cena.

Antonio Cesaro

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    Factors In His Favor

    Antonio Cesaro was one of seven men vying for the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank briefcase this July. That alone puts him above a number of Superstars who were left out of that match.

    His biggest strength, though, is his ability to put on a top-level match. 

    Going with Cesaro as John Cena's challenger assures WWE of a number of great bouts. Cesaro's work against Daniel Bryan and his 2-out-of-3 Falls match with Sami Zayn stand as proof of that.

    As good as Damien Sandow looked against Cena on Monday's Raw, one has to think a series of Cesaro vs. Cena clashes would top one featuring Sandow versus Cena in terms of ring work.


    Factors Against Him

    Being a part of a tag team with Jack Swagger lessens his chances, as does the mismatch between his current gimmick and Cena's. Being a part of Zeb Colter's xenophobic crew makes Cesaro more likely to battle Sin Cara than Cena.

    Cena, the all-American do-gooder, doesn't seem a likely target for Colter's rage.

    WWE could have Cesaro break away from both Colter and Swagger, but even so, the company would need to give him a number of quality wins to wash away the memory of him losing to Santino Marella.


Bray Wyatt

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    Factors In His Favor

    The powerful potential story of hero versus monster is what has Bray Wyatt in this discussion so soon after his main roster debut.

    Should Wyatt continue to take out top guys like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, it simply clears room for him to ascend to the top. This "devil" Wyatt says has told him to attack these Superstars could then point him toward John Cena.

    "The Eater of Worlds" offers an extremely fresh matchup and offers WWE a chance to go boldly toward the future. Reliving a Alberto Del Rio and Cena feud is a safer bet, but the story of Cena having to fend off The Wyatt Family has the potential to be something great.

    Wyatt's character and fabulous promo work is main event ready right now.

    What would their matches look like, though? Is Wyatt ready for that kind of showdown?


    Factors Against Him

    It's early in Wyatt's career for such a lofty position. WWE could certainly get him some quality wins to justify putting him there, but the company would have to be nervous about what he'll do once given the chance.

    Wyatt has shown flashes of exciting ring work, but his inexperience may be a poor fit for Cena, who works best against ring generals like Shawn Michaels, CM Punk and Edge.

    In addition, Wyatt's character seems like one who has little desire for championships; it appears that causing carnage is higher on his priority list.


Mark Henry

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    Photo: WWE.com

    Factors In His Favor

    Mark Henry and John Cena's feud this summer lasted but a single match. It's easy to argue that as hard-fought as that match was, Henry should earn another spot upon his return.

    His new Rick Ross-like look makes him even more intimidating, an easy sell as a monster should WWE have him be a heel once he comes back.

    Being a world champ in the past and having defeated a number of big names throughout his career makes him the kind of Superstar who can leapfrog other candidates on the strength of his overall resume. Even though Cena beat him at Money in the Bank, Henry can be played up as a dangerous foe.


    Factors Against Him

    Henry is taking his time stepping back into the ring. 

    He's been out of action since August and gave WWE.com only a vague in a recent interview on when we can expect him back. He does appear to be in great shape, saying in his WWE.com interview that he's lost weight and that his "strength its through the roof."

    Once Henry comes back to WWE, he'll find that Alberto Del Rio, Damien Sandow and others will have a lot more momentum than he has.

Dolph Ziggler

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    Factors In His Favor

    Dolph Ziggler is not all that far removed from being world champ himself. A concussion derailed his reign earlier this year, leading to Alberto Del Rio zeroing in on his head and taking the title from him.

    Ziggler could easily argue that he deserves another shot now that he's fully recovered from that injury.

    His previous history with John Cena could be revisited, and WWE knows that Cena and Ziggler would produce a good bout together as evidenced by their entertaining ladder match at TLC 2012.

    "The Show Off" also holds recent victories over Damien Sandow, including one at Battleground, a man likely to be in the championship hunt.


    Factors Against Him

    It's Ziggler's win-loss record that keeps him a dark-horse contender rather than a more serious one, though.

    Recently, he's been on the wrong side of matches against Randy Orton, Dean Ambrose, and Sandow. Being unable to win the United States title from Ambrose won't do Ziggler any favors, but WWE isn't always logical about who earns title shots as we saw when Ryback earned a WWE title match after a loss to Mark Henry.

    For Ziggler to challenge Cena, he'll require similar treatment as well as most likely a heel turn.


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    Factors In His Favor

    Christian is a former world champ who just recently had Alberto Del Rio on the ropes several times. His non-title wins against Del Rio are something for Christian to bring up should he demand "one more match" for the World Heavyweight Championship.

    More importantly, a turned Christian offers a fresh matchup for John Cena.

    Cena has defended a major championship against the majority of the roster, but his contact with Christian has been minimal. It would be an intriguing matchup, both in the ring and in terms of promos. 

    The biggest question with him, though, is when we'll see him in a WWE ring next.


    Factors Against Him

    Like Mark Henry, Christian has been out of action will have to begin anew in terms of momentum.

    His return would generate some, but who knows when that will be. ProWrestling.net reported that Christian was pulled out of some October events due to a concussion he suffered in September. 

    There's been no word of him returning since then. Perhaps the concussion is an extremely serious one, affecting more than just his hopes of a world title shot.