Top 5 Contenders If Daniel Bryan Vacates the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
This has immediately raised a question. What will happen to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? It seems that the WWE is waiting to see how the surgery pans out before deciding on the fate of the title.
I would guess that, if Bryan is unable to compete at Payback, the company will be forced to strip him of the strap. Thankfully, there are a number of contenders who could step up as new champions.
The WWE's Apex Predator would seem like a logical choice for a vacant championship. However, Randy Orton's current position as one of Triple H's henchman in Evolution makes that difficult.
History shows that anyone other than Triple H holding the title causes rifts in the faction. With the Shield vs. Evolution still raging and producing great matches, it would be foolish to break the team apart.
It's clear that WWE Creative is working toward making Roman Reigns a big singles star. He will likely be challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at some point in the next 18 months.
However, now is not the time for Reigns to go it alone. He is also yet to prove his skills as a technical wrestler, showcasing only a limited move set. Reigns is a talented wrestler, but he's not a champion yet.
5. Dolph Ziggler
Since his 2013 push was halted by a concussion, Dolph Ziggler's stock has plummeted. The fact that he has shared recent screen time with Damien Sandow's Magneto outfit says a lot about his current position within the WWE.
But Ziggler remains one of the best in-ring talents in the company. He sells moves better than just about anyone else and deserves far more from WWE Creative than he gets.
An out-of-the-blue championship victory would be a step too far given his current standing, so a shock win in a tournament or Battle Royal would be the only way to give him the gold.
This is one of the more logical options on the list.
Kane is in the midst of a violent and chaotic feud with Daniel Bryan for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. They put on a fiery bout for the belt at Extreme Rules, and Kane has shown no signs of stopping his pursuit of Bryan and his championship.
The Authority could simply hand Kane the title, or he could even steal it from the offices of Triple H. That could further the angle in which Stephanie McMahon is losing control of the monster she unleashed.
Kane is a little past his prime, but he could be a serviceable champion to fill the time in which Bryan is away.
Since splitting from the Real Americans and joining Paul Heyman, Cesaro has been on a real upwards trajectory.
The King of Swing now seems to have established himself as a heel character and could fill the void of villainous challengers to Daniel Bryan's crown. A short reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion could be the perfect way to cement him as a true main event talent.
His powerhouse style could also provide a really nice counterpoint to Bryan's technical work when he returns from injury.
Cesaro deserves success, and he will have it. It's just a matter of when.
2. Triple H
Triple H is the top heel in the WWE right now. His villainous promos and frequent abuses of power have positioned him at the top of the list of people the WWE Universe loves to hate.
It was Triple H who was the perfect villain to foil Daniel Bryan's pursuit of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship throughout late 2013 and the beginning of this year. Bryan works best as an underdog, so an angle in which he had to reclaim his title from the Authority would be another compelling rivalry.
He hasn't held the top belt since 2009, and he seldom gets in the ring nowadays, but a corporate Triple H as champion could be a really engaging position for the WWE.
1. Brock Lesnar
There is, of course, an enormous caveat attached to this entry. Brock Lesnar should be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, if he is coming back now.
Imagine Triple H stood in the ring, brandishing the title he has just stripped from Daniel Bryan. Suddenly, some familiar music hits and Brock Lesnar emerges, flanked by Paul Heyman and Cesaro. He wins a Battle Royal later in the night to become champion.
As well as establishing a dominant heel as champion, this could also be the fuel to the inevitable Cesaro vs. Lesnar feud that will happen down the line.
Adding the WWE World Heavyweight Championship to that rivalry would give it a lot of heat. A battle between the two main Heyman Guys would also give their manager a lot of mic time, which can only be a great thing.