The 8 WWE Stars Who Could Realistically Headline WrestleMania 39 Match Card
Coming off a hot stretch of shows this summer, it's easy to assume that WWE's period of prosperity is over until WrestleMania season and that the next few months of the on-air product will be tamer in comparison.
Rather, this final quarter of WWE programing is of utmost importance as it pertains to putting the pieces in place for a strong WrestleMania lineup.
In years past, officials have tended to wait until much closer to The Show of Shows to set everything in stone. However, it makes much more sense to start planning for the pay-per-view far in advance.
That makes September through December an incredibly crucial span of time for WWE, particularly in regards to determining what the top of the card will look like. The event expanding to two nights in recent years has presented more opportunities for fresh faces and established talent to headline The Grandest Stage of Them All.
Seven months out from WrestleMania, these eight Superstars are the most realistic candidates to close out either night of the spring spectacle.
Roman Reigns has become so synonymous with the main event of The Show of Shows that he should be considered a lock to headline one of WrestleMania 39's two nights next April.
Since August 2020, he has been on the run of a lifetime as Undisputed WWE Universal champion. He has conquered some of the best the business has to offer these last two years, including at WrestleMania itself.
WrestleMania 36 saw him successfully defend his title against not one but two legendary competitors in Edge and Daniel Bryan. He repeated the feat the following year by beating Brock Lesnar and becoming an undisputed two-title holder in the process.
Coming off his latest defense at Clash at the Castle, it's hard to imagine he'll lose the prestigious prize at any point between now and WrestleMania 39. In fact, that could well be the night he is finally dethroned.
Regardless of who his opponent is, Reigns is almost guaranteed to walk into WrestleMania with the gold, but whether he'll walk out still champ is the question.
They keyword here is "realistic," and realistically, The Rock should not be expected to appear at WrestleMania 39. Fans have been hoping to see him return to the ring for years, but it has yet to come to fruition because of his hectic Hollywood schedule.
Rock vs. Roman Reigns writes itself and would be a fitting main event for WrestleMania 39 in Anaheim, but until more signs start to point in the direction of that marquee match happening, it can't be considered a likely possibility.
That's where Cody Rhodes comes in.
Following Reigns' defeat of Drew McIntyre in Cardiff, it became clear that the only acceptable choice to take the title from The Tribal Chief is Rhodes. Immediately upon his return, he announced his intentions to capture the championship, and WrestleMania 39 would be the perfect place for it to happen.
Not only can he believably beat Reigns with the way he was booked prior to his injury, but he'd benefit big time and would firmly cement his status as a main event player with a win.
His torn pec has kept him out of action since June, but the timetable for his return has him back right around the Royal Rumble, which would make for an outstanding story if he emerged victorious.
From the moment she signed with WWE, Ronda Rousey was destined to headline WrestleMania. Sure enough, one year removed from making her in-ring debut at the event in 2018, she took part in the first-ever women's WrestleMania main event in 2019.
That night not only marked her first official loss in WWE, but it was also her last match for three years before returning at Royal Rumble 2022, where she won the women's Rumble.
That should have automatically earned her the main event spot at 'Mania this year, but "Stone Cold" Steve Austin coming out of retirement to face Kevin Owens took precedence. Her SmackDown Women's Championship contest with Charlotte Flair played second fiddle and understandably so.
At WrestleMania 39, she will have a chance to redeem herself by reclaiming the 'Mania main event on one of the two nights. It would also be much more likely if she can continue the compelling character work she's currently doing.
There's a handful of money matches left for Rousey in WWE with members of both rosters, so it isn't at all far-fetched to think she'll be a featured player again come next spring.
If Rousey is going to headline WrestleMania again, the best possible opponent for her would undoubtedly have to be Becky Lynch.
Truth be told, Rousey vs. Lynch one-on-one should have been what closed out WrestleMania 35. Unfortunately, WWE felt it was necessary to shoehorn Charlotte Flair into the equation, and both the build and the match itself suffered as a result.
When Rousey resurfaced at the Royal Rumble and won the women's edition, it was blatantly obvious that fans wanted to see her challenge Becky Lynch for the Raw Women's Championship at WrestleMania 38. They had unfinished business, and it was a logical route to take.
WWE instead paired Rousey off with Flair while Bianca Belair challenged Lynch, which turned out for the better since the latter was an absolute barn burner and paid off their story wonderfully. A babyface Rousey against a heel Lynch would have been an odd dynamic, anyway.
Now that they're back in their right roles, respectively, nothing is stopping WWE from booking this long-awaited encounter for WrestleMania 39 for either the Raw or SmackDown Women's Championship.
Seth Rollins has made no bones about the fact that main-eventing WrestleMania has been among his biggest goals throughout his career–and winning the WrestleMania main event in 2015 doesn't count in his mind.
It will be forever remembered by fans as one of his greatest moments ever, but since he joined Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar at the last minute via a Money in the Bank cash-in and wasn't originally a part of the match, it's understandable why it would have an asterisk beside it.
He's put together an exceptional resume of 'Mania matches these past few years, including unseating Lesnar for the Universal Championship in 2019. However, the main event slot has always alluded him, and few are more deserving of that honor that him.
A case can absolutely be made for Rollins being WWE's in-ring MVP for 2022, and he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. He's fresh off a victory over Matt Riddle at Clash at the Castle and should have his sights set on the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship before long.
Depending on whether the top titles are split again within the next few months, it's possible he could finally headline WrestleMania next year as champion with Cody Rhodes challenging him seeing as how it was Rollins who put Rhodes on the shelf in storyline back in June.
Austin Theory's rapid ascent through the WWE ranks in the last year made it quite clear that he is being primed for a top-level spot for years to come.
His shock Money in the Bank win led fans to speculate when he would cash in and if he'd do so successfully. He's already attempted to trade in the contract for a title shot twice in recent months, and both efforts were thwarted.
There's truly no rush, especially since he has an entire year to do it. He also isn't remotely ready for that type of spotlight yet, so gradually building him up in feuds with the likes of Dolph Ziggler and Johnny Gargano makes the most sense.
While it would be best to wait until after WrestleMania 39 to have him cash in and become champion, WWE may have other plans that include him competing in the 'Mania main event as champion.
It wouldn't be ideal, but it must be noted that anything can change within the landscape of WWE between now and then. Thus, it should be considered a realistic option, with Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre leading the list of potential opponents.
Within a year of arriving on the main roster, Bianca Belair made history in more ways than one by headlining Night 1 of WrestleMania 37 with Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women's Championship.
The two had a terrific match that culminated with Belair becoming the new champ, and she hasn't looked back. She experienced a small bump in the road when she lost the title to Becky Lynch at SummerSlam 2021, but regaining it from Big Time Becks in another exceptional 'Mania match eight months later helped her get back on track.
All these months later and she's still holding the gold, but it remains to be seen if her reign will extend through WrestleMania 39. If so, there is no shortage of opponents for her on the grand stage, no matter what brand they're a part of.
Belair has proved to be such a star that her becoming a two-time WrestleMania headliner should come as no surprise when it inevitably happens. Momentum is on her side, and she's as over as ever, so 2022 could be the year it happens.
Running it back with Lynch (this time with both as babyfaces) is an option, or targeting the one member of the Four Horsewomen she has yet to defeat one-on-one: Charlotte Flair. There's one more woman who could well find herself in a similar spot of prominence come 'Mania standing across the ring from Belair in what would be an extremely exciting affair...
WWE hasn't had a main event of WrestleMania pitting two fresh faces against each other in many years, but Bianca Belair vs. Rhea Ripley would be a welcome exception.
Both have been around on the main roster for a few years by this point but haven't had the distinction of competing in the main event of a pay-per-view multiple times. Both have bright futures ahead of them and should be spotlighted at The Show of Shows in the main event.
Belair and Ripley are, of course, no strangers to one another. They previously collided in NXT and have also had their fair share of battles on Raw.
Prior to Ripley being sidelined briefly with an injury over the summer, the two were set to rekindle their rivalry over the Raw Women's Championship at Money in the Bank. Although the bout had to be bumped from the card, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise if it's ultimately saved for for WrestleMania 39.
Ripley has found herself entrenched in all of The Judgment Day's business for months now, but it's high time she contended for titles again as she'd pose the biggest threat to Belair's dominant reign.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.